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A Fort Worth family made millions in shale gas. Now a court wants their ranch sold

KC7 Ranch owned by Fort Worth family for sale in bankruptcy

The Darden family of Fort Worth, which for years ran the Quicksilver Resources company that amassed millions during the height of the Barnett Shale natural gas play, is selling a 37,000-acre KC7 Ranch in far west Texas as part of a bankruptcy.
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The Darden family of Fort Worth, which for years ran the Quicksilver Resources company that amassed millions during the height of the Barnett Shale natural gas play, is selling a 37,000-acre KC7 Ranch in far west Texas as part of a bankruptcy.

An enormous Davis Mountains ranch owned by a prominent Fort Worth oil and gas family has been ordered sold by a bankruptcy court.

The KC7 Ranch near Balmorhea (about two hours southwest of Midland) features about 37,000 acres of tranquil land with managed wildlife. The sale also will include potentially lucrative mineral and water rights — amenities that are highly sought after in the Permian Basin shale oil play.

Icon Global Group, a Dallas commercial real estate firm that has become known for its ability to market Texas-size ranches, was appointed broker for the sale. The company announced it would immediately begin accepting offers for the land, with a deadline of Nov. 30 for prospective buyers to submit sealed bids.

The bankruptcy case is being heard in Fort Worth federal court, under the supervision of Judge Mark X. Mullin.



Water rights are extremely valuable in parched West Texas, not only for drinking water supplies, but to ensure that natural gas fracking companies have the liquids they need to force petroleum from the bowels of the Earth to the surface.

“The inclusion of the previously unavailable but immensely valuable owned water rights in this property is a game changer and makes for an extremely unique and potentially revenue rich investment opportunity with predicted income streams potentially worth many multiples beyond any surface value acquisition price,” said Bernard Uechtritz, Icon Global Realty founder.

“I have seen data which indicates up to 400,000 barrels a day of water production is possible. Current frac water rates in the area range from sixty cents to two dollars. Let’s say conservatively this water is delivered is at twenty cents. This could mean a payback as much as $70M a year for decades. I might be married into an Aggie family and only have a 10th grade education, but even I understand that kind of math, and these are big, big numbers,” Uechtritz said.

The property also includes a nearly 10,000-square-foot stone lodge, which was remodeled in 2007.

The ordered sale stems from the bankruptcy filings of KC 7 Ranch, Ltd. and related entities.

The property has been for sale for years with a list price of $52 million, not including mineral and water rights. But now that water and mineral rights are included, there is no official asking price.

The ranch is symbolic of the rise and fall of the Fort Worth area’s Barnett Shale natural gas play. Thomas “Toby” Darden, who along with other family members ran one of the Barnett Shale’s most lucrative companies, Quicksilver Resources, filed for bankruptcy protection for the ranch in December, and for other related companies in January.

At its peak, Quicksilver Resources employed about 600 people and controlled 85,000 acres in the Barnett Shale. It also had nearly 500,000 acres of gas and coal bed properties in Canada along with an additional 90,000 acres in the Permian Basin.

But Quicksilver struggled with mounting debts and lower natural gas prices and filed for bankruptcy in 2015. At the time, the company stated that its assets were worth about $1.21 billion but that it was saddled with $2.35 billion in debt.

In 2016, BlueStone Natural Resources II bought Quicksilvers’ Barnett Shale assets in a bankruptcy auction for $245 million. While Toby Darden retired from the company in 2013, he continued to serve as an adviser. His brother, Glenn Darden, served as CEO and president, and his sister, Anne Darden Self, was vice president of human resources.

What about the land?

In addition to its below-the-surface value, KC7 Ranch is considered a sportsman’s paradise for is surface-level amenities, Uechtritz said.

The main house overlooks a spring-fed trophy bass lake. The perimeter of the ranch is fenced, and the interior is cross-fenced into 11 pastures.

This report includes informaton from the Star-Telegram archives.

Gordon Dickson: 817-390-7796; @gdickson
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