Here’s a property transaction that brought together diverse parties — the government of Dubai and a Miami-based agribusiness company bought a Central Florida ranch from the fourth-generation descendants of pioneer Latimer Maxcy, who came to Florida in the early 20th century.
Lake Wales-based Latt Maxcy Corp. sold the Osceola County ranch to El Maximo Ranch Holdings LLC, a joint venture between the Investment Corp. of Dubai, the investment arm of the Dubai government, and Optimum Agriculture LLC, which focuses on farmland development and agribusiness in Florida, the Midwest and Argentina.
Lorenzo Moll Parron, a partner at the KYMP law firm in Miami, represented the buyers and closed the deal April 26.
The 38,453-acre El Maximo ranch stretches from the southwest corner of Osceola County north to State Road 60 and east toward Florida’s Turnpike. The deal breaks down to $3,550 per acre.
The ranch dates back to Maxcy’s early days in Florida. Originally from South Carolina, he started in Florida with citrus growing, according to the Latt Maxcy Corp. website. He later expanded to fruit packinghouses, citrus canning and processing operations and added a citrus pulp mill to his packinghouse.
From 1935 to 1949, Maxcy amassed a 150,000-acre ranch spanning from the Kissimmee River to Vero Beach, according to LattMaxcy.com.
The recently sold acreage, which is used for citrus, potato growing and cattle grazing, was family owned, according to Moll Parron.
“It was owned by the same family for over 100 years,” Moll Parron said. “It used to be so large — even though this is still a very large piece of property — it used to run nearly straight across the middle of the state of Florida from the Gulf all the way to the Atlantic almost. At its height, there was a lot of citrus and cattle grazing on it.”
Now, Miami-based Optimum, managed by investment banker Gaston Marquevich, will run much more intensive cattle grazing and ranching on behalf of the joint venture, Moll Parron said.
This deal was complex on multiple fronts, he added. For one, it took about two years to close after negotiations started in 2016, then at one point ceased and then were renewed.
There was a change of plans in the middle of negotiations. At first, it was planned as an all-cash transaction, but then the buyers opted to secure financing, Moll Parron said.
At some point, the buyers walked away from the deal, although it was an amicable termination. Negotiations restarted after the buyers secured financing, he said.
Also, selling the ranch meant getting a consensus from the shareholders of the Latt Maxcy Corp., he added.
“Once we had the contract in place, the board of Latt Maxcy that had negotiated the contract had to take it to their shareholders — all the various family members — and debate that and vote on that, come back with their comments, change it, negotiate it. It was a complex negotiation because you are dealing with the board of Latt Maxcy, and then the board always needs to take it to its shareholders for approval. So that was tricky,” Moll Parron said.
Federal agencies also signed off on the deal, according to Moll Parron. Although that approval wasn’t required for the deal to close, the parties still sought the OK. This was done to avoid the federal government unwinding the deal after closing, something the government could do, according to Moll Parron.
This transaction was a concern to the federal government in part because of the property’s size and location in the Kissimmee River basin, which feeds the Everglades.
Bordered by the Kissimmee River, “you could conceivably think there was a strategic importance there because of the water and the access to the water,” Moll Parron said. There “also is a very large military facility, so there’s a chance the U.S. government would say, ‘We are not necessarily comfortable with these buyers acquiring a parcel that’s adjacent to a military facility.’ And then there’s also the fact that this was being acquired, such a large piece of land, by the sovereign wealth fund of Dubai,” Moll Parron said.
It was another of the many moving pieces of the transaction.