Billionaire Bill Koch has been ordered to cough up $1.825 million to a Texas ranching company after a dispute over the breeding of prized Akaushi cattle at Koch's Bear Ranch in Paonia. The seven-figure judgement probably isn't much of a worry for Koch — though much better than the $23 million the jury initially awarded — but he was ordered to sell the cattle back to Texas' HeartBrand Beef. Akaushi are one of the four breeds of Japanese cattle that produce the highly sought-after Wagyu beef, with its intense fat marbling.
If Bear Ranch sounds familiar, that's because it's where Koch assembled a whole town to house his extensive collection of Western memorabilia. It also was at the heart of a land use dispute over whether or not a strip of BLM land cutting across Bear Ranch should be exchanged so Koch could enjoy greater privacy and tie the two parts of the ranch together.
In an ironic twist, it was Koch's own initial lawsuit that opened the dispute. Koch, no stranger to litigation, sued HeartBrand, claiming the terms of the deal that landed him 424 prized Japanese cattle for $2.4 million were anti-competitive. HeartBrand turned around and countersued for breach of contract, partly because Koch grew his herd to 4,000. A Victoria, Texas, jury agreed with HeartBrand and came up with the $23 million figure that was revised down by a judge.
While Wagyu and American cattle crossbreeds aren't that uncommon, full-bred Japanese cattle like Akaushi are harder to come by. The 11 initial Akaushi only made it to the states because of a trade agreement loophole, and now, importing the cattle directly from Japan is near impossible.
But, for any other wealthy ranchers out there, a Texas ranching company might have a few thousand full-bred Akaushi that need a new home.
· Texas judge says Bill Koch must pay damages, sell back Akaushi cattle [Denver Post]
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