Would You Pay $45 Million For This Austin Ranch?
Video game billionaire Richard Garriott’s West Austin estate hits the market.
If you ever played Ultima—or Ultima Online, the granddaddy of the massively multiplayer online roleplaying game genre—congratulations: you helped the game’s creator, Richard Garriott, buy his West Austin estate. (You also helped send him into space, but that’s another story.) And if you managed to amass a fortune of your own in that time, great news! You can now buy his estate for $45 million.
The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Garriott’s property, called the Lake Austin Ranch for selling purposes, would be hitting the market last week. And though property—even high-end, highly-desirable property—goes to market in Texas all the time, Garriott’s Lake Austin Ranch is something special. For one, a $45 million sale price would shatter all of the city’s previously held records. For another, well, let’s check the place out.
Pricey property in Texas tends to involve some common features: private tennis courts, exquisitely manicured lawns, indoor/outdoor swimming pools, a botanical garden, maybe a stray helipad or two. But even in the 1 percent world where those things can be taken for granted, Garriott’s spot is unique.
Lake Austin Ranch features a full, 300-seat outdoor replica of the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. That’s not something you see every day, even when you peruse listings in the mid-eight figures online. And Garriott’s Globe comes with not just a theater space, but its own merry band of performers: Garriott has served as the patron of the Elizabethan performance troupe the Baron’s Men for years, and they produce a season of work—this year’s includes As You Like It, an original production, and a jousting tournament. Although Garriott’s arrangement with the Baron’s Men isn’t something that a new owner would necessarily be required to maintain (who can require someone with $45,000,000 to spend on a house to do much of anything?), it certainly seems like the sort of option that the troupe would be open to based on the reaction from its performers to the news of the sale.
Interpreting the changes to the theater as another classic tale of Austin art spaces closing due to predictable patterns such as development, gentrification, or the obscenely wealthy patron behind said venue opting to spend the bulk of his fortune on space tourism might be a bit of a misread, but the theater isn’t the only thing that Lake Austin Ranch has to offer. There’s also—er—a giant concrete slab (you can see it on the Google Map view of the space) that was poured with the intention of building a very large house on the property, which the marketing copy for the property cleverly spins as “an ideal location for a home that could be over 25,000 sq. ft.” That’s certainly one way to put it, but aside from the slab, there’s already a living space on the property—in the form of a 1,000-square-foot guest house with two bedrooms and one bathroom. There’s also a dock for boats (if you’re buying this place, you definitely have boats) and at least one building that kind of resembles a lighthouse.
In other words, the $45 million you’d be spending for this property isn’t so much about what’s on it now (though the property’s listing agent, Gary Dolch, told the Austin Business Journal that “Richard built a haunted forest that’s all censored with features that jump out at you,” if that’s your sort of thing), it’s what you could do with it. Location, as they say, is everything, and Garriott’s ranch is just an eleven mile drive from the Texas Capitol. (The listing notes that it’s 5.6 miles away from downtown Austin, but doing the trip in that distance would probably require a helicopter, which you will probably immediately purchase after you buy this property.) The fact that hundreds of people a night have been able to come to the ranch to see productions of Shakespeare is a proof of concept that some tech zillionaire could throw absolutely killer parties—Coldplay would probably look great playing on that stage to a crowd of half-aware hobnobbers.
This isn’t the first time that Garriott has sold property in Austin. He sold Britannia Manor, an honest-to-gosh castle he constructed after purchasing property near the ranch in 1986, in 2014 for an undisclosed amount. Britannia Manor spent a fair bit of time on the market—it was first listed at $4,000,000 in 2011 to great fanfare, before eventually a buyer came along for the 4,790-square-foot home that featured a 360-degree observatory, waterfall, pool, grotto, lagoon, air-conditioned barn, and lighted track.
It’s likely that the Lake Austin Ranch will be snatched off the market, if only because there are only a handful of buyers in Texas (or anywhere else) with budgets in the $45,000,000 range. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to it when it eventually sells, but if you’re investing all of your time in your own MMORPG game with the hope of becoming a billionaire, it’s possible this place will still be on the market when you eventually make it big.