Amid legal threat, UW, CSU prepare to sell Y Cross

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Two former governors of Colorado and Wyoming are scheduled to unseal bids in November for a vast ranch in southeast Wyoming while the woman who donated the property to two university foundations threatens to sue if the sale moves forward as planned.

Denver philanthropist Amy Davis, who gave the Y Cross Ranch to the University of Wyoming Foundation and Colorado State University Research Foundation in 1997, claims the schools haven't done enough to use the ranch for hands-on agriculture education as intended.

The two foundations jointly own 50,000-acre ranch between Cheyenne and Laramie. Davis' attorney, Steve Miller, told the foundations in an Aug. 22 letter they violated the gift agreement by insufficiently promoting the ranch to university faculty as an available educational tool.

"Accordingly, the Donors demand that the proposed sale of the Y Cross Ranch be terminated," Miller wrote.

Davis and her Courtenay C. Davis Foundation are prepared to sue if the foundations don't help line up "substitute donees" to fulfill the purpose of the gift, he added.

Miller provided a copy of the letter to The Associated Press on Thursday without further comment. Reached by phone, Davis declined to comment.

University of Wyoming and Colorado State officials declined to comment on the letter, citing official policy on possible litigation involving the schools.

The gift agreement allowed the foundations to put the Y Cross up for sale no sooner than 14 years after the gift was made. The date passed just over a year ago and the foundations decided soon after to sell.

Representatives of both foundations have said the working ranch isn't a very practical place for students to learn. Proceeds from selling the ranch will go toward scholarships, they say, meeting the intent of the gift agreement.

Meanwhile, real estate agent Ron Morris said Thursday that former Wyoming Gov. Mike Sullivan and former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter will open bids for the property Nov. 13 in Cheyenne.

The event, which will be open to the public, will be followed by a decision no later than Nov. 16 whether to accept the highest offer.

The university foundations have not set a formal reserve, he said, but are looking to accept a price "north of $20 million." So far, the property has attracted interest from people with the means to afford the property, he said.

"I've got about eight or 10 prospects at the moment. Showed it once last week, will be up there again next week," said Morris.

Morris is an owner of Johnstown, Colo.-based Ranch Marketing Associates, which is handling the sale. The firm specializes in high-end ranch real estate.

Its other listings include a Jackson Hole property with a $100 million asking price.

An income statement accompanying Y Cross listing online shows the ranch has been profitable most years. In fiscal year 2012, which ended in June, the Y Cross had $985,139 in revenues and $528,140 in operating expenses for a net profit of $456,999.

"The cattle market is still strong, so given the effect drought has had on water and grass on the property, we've sold some more cattle than we would have during a wetter year. That has generated more profit for us," Colorado State spokesman Mike Hooker explained by email.

The Y Cross posted net losses of $13,727 in 2011 and $105,603 in 2010, and profits ranging from $20,193 to $312,489 over the previous nine years.

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