Thomas “Toby” Darden, who watched the Barnett Shale natural gas field pioneer Quicksilver Resources slip into bankruptcy, returned to federal court this week to seek protection for ranch and energy holdings in West Texas.
Darden is seeking Chapter 11 reorganization protection for four companies under the KC7 Ranch umbrella. The companies control significant assets near the oil-rich Permian Basin, including a 31,737-acre ranch in the Davis Mountain range that is already for sale for $52 million.
The entities, listed as parent company KC7 Holdings, KC7 Ranch, KC7 GP and KC7 Partners, reported $50 million to $100 million in assets and $10 million to $50 million in liabilities, according to bankruptcy records. Darden initially filed for bankruptcy for the ranch Dec. 28 and the other companies on Monday.
The bankruptcies apparently were filed to stop Hitachi Infrastructure Systems, the mortgage holder on the ranch, from conducting a foreclosure sale of the property on Tuesday after Hitachi declared its loan to be in default.
The KC7 companies control, through leases and contracts, not only ranching activities but also oil and gas exploration and efforts related to obtaining and supplying water for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.
Darden and his attorneys did not return phone calls seeking comment. An attorney from Hitachi America Ltd. in Tarrytown, New York, also didn’t return a phone call.
Darden is a member of a well-known Fort Worth family that once was a big player in the Barnett Shale in North Texas through Quicksilver Resources. At one time the company had about 600 employees 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.
Prior to the bankruptcy, the KC7 Ranch was listed with Briggs Freeman Sotheby’s International Realty in Dallas and is still on the market, according to agent Jim Sammons.
“It is on the market right now. I haven’t been told anything different,” Sammons said.
The nearly 32,000-acre ranch in Reeves and Jeff Davis counties includes mineral rights as well as “seven constant flowing springs, abundant wildlife, mountains and more,” the agency’s website said. The property also includes an 1890s-era updated six-bedroom headquarters that has a library.
Nearby is a rock barn and rock corrals. A short distance away is another house and a barn with 12 stalls, storage and a shop. Another house is located on the northern part of the ranch, the website said. Alpine and Marfa are slightly more than an hour away and nearby is the McDonald Observatory.
The overall region has become even more desirable for energy exploration in recent years. In 2016 Apache Corp. announced it had found a play in the southern reaches of the Permian, one it calls the Alpine High. The company said the field contained at least 3 billion barrels of oil and 75 trillion cubic feet of gas.
This story contains material from the Star-Telegram archives.