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California Ranch Once Owned by McDonald's Founder Ray Kroc Asks $29 Million

10/27/2020 | 01:00pm EDT

A 554-acre ranch in California's Santa Ynez Valley once owned by McDonald's founder Ray Kroc is coming on the market for $29 million.

Mr. Kroc and his then-wife Jane Kroc bought the bulk of the ranch around 1965, shortly after the hamburger giant went public on the stock market and made Mr. Kroc an overnight multimilliionaire, according to the listing agents.

The businessman spotted an advertisement for the ranch while on vacation with Ms. Kroc at Alisal ranch, a luxurious hideaway that attracted celebrities like Clark Gable and Doris Day, according to the book "Ray & Joan: The Man Who Made the McDonald's Fortune and The Woman Who Gave it All Away" by Lisa Napoli. Even though Alisal ranch is nearby, Mr. Kroc decided to offer the full $600,000 asking price for the property without visiting it, according to Ms. Napoli's book.

Mr. Kroc named the property "the J & R Double Arch Ranch," a reference to the McDonald's arches, and used it as a cross between a personal playground, corporate executive retreat and test kitchen. It also served as a headquarters for his charitable foundation. His brother, Bob Kroc, oversaw the foundation, which convened scientists around important research on diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis, Ms. Napoli said.

A small set of golden arches, designed to look like the McDonald's logo, was placed at the entrance to the property.

The ranch's centerpiece was a 17,000-square-foot lodge with a large lounge area, a string of guest suites and a dining room that could accommodate up to 100. It had Italian cabinetry, French antiques and a self-serve cafeteria-style kitchen and bar from which guests could help themselves at all hours of the day and night.

After Mr. Kroc's divorce from Jane Kroc in 1968, he married Joan Kroc, the former wife of a McDonald's franchise owner, at the ranch in 1969. The marriage took place "on a gigantic, bright white polar bear rug in front of the stately stone fireplace that had been constructed from 120 tons of native stone gathered from the grounds," Ms. Napoli wrote.

The couple soon built an additional home on the ranch. Circular in shape and with 360-degree views of the landscape, the new property was known as the"Round House" and was compared by locals to one of Mr. Kroc's hamburgers. He later purchased several adjacent properties to expand the ranch.

Mr. Kroc died in 1984. Following his death, Joan Kroc, a prolific philanthropist, tried to turn the property into a camp for children suffering from cancer, but the move was rejected by local authorities over zoning concerns, according to the book "Sideways in Neverland: Life in the Santa Ynez Valley, California," by William Etling. Ms. Kroc died in 2003.

The ranch was purchased in 1990 by Gerald Kessler of NaturesPlus, a vitamin and supplements company, according to the listing agents. Following his death in 2015, his widow Meadow Williams and his children and grandchildren battled in court over control of his estate, according to court records and published reports. Ms. Williams is the sole seller of the property, the agents said.

Located in the Happy Canyon region of the Santa Ynez Valley, the ranch is still largely as Mr. Kroc left it, though in very good condition, according to the listing agents. The "Round House" has a main circular living room with high ceilings, two levels of windows, a central fireplace surrounded by circular sofas, elaborate woodwork, Native American-style carvings and a library gallery overlooking the space.

Throughout the property, there are enough accommodations for approximately 100 guests, including the lodge, the main house, four other single-family homes, several bunkhouses and a residence built in 1971 for Bob Kroc, according to the agents. The lodge complex includes a large gathering room for functions and a 5,200-square-foot conference hall that seats 62. There is also a helicopter pad, two tennis courts, a pool, hiking trails and barbecue and picnic facilities.

The Happy Canyon area, once known for cattle ranching, now draws some of California's wealthiest and is known for its wineries and thoroughbred horse training facilities. The property is about 16 miles from Michael Jackson's onetime Neverland Ranch and about 10 miles from a luxury polo ranch owned by California billionaire Tom Barrack, records show.

Maria Temmel, Maurie McGuire and Scott Westlotorn of Coldwell Banker Realty have the listing for the Kroc property.

Write to Katherine Clarke at Katherine.Clarke@wsj.com

Corrections and Amplifications

This article was corrected on Nov. 2, 2020 because it misstated that The property once owned by Mr. Kroc is in the Happy Valley area of California's Santa Ynez Valley. It is in the Happy Canyon area of Santa Ynez Valley.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

10-27-20 1400ET

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