Akerman Senterfitt's corporate practice has facilitated one of the largest land deals in Florida history, through a complex series of multi-party transactions and corporate restructurings. The deal ultimately results in the sale of the Florida Babcock Company, the company that owns Florida Babcock Ranch, a 91,361-acre land parcel in southwestern Florida owned by the Babcock family since 1914.
The ultimate purchaser is a joint venture between Akerman client Kitson & Partners, Evergreen Partners, and a real estate investment firm sponsored by Morgan Stanley. As part of the deal, the State of Florida and Lee County have agreed to pay the Kitson joint venture $350 million for 70,000 acres of the land for permanent preservation, ensuring that a wildlife corridor stretching from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico will remain untouched. The remaining portion of the land is set to be developed into a community site.
Akerman Senterfitt corporate attorney Teddy D. Klinghoffer led the deal negotiations for Kitson & Partners. He and his team first negotiated the purchase of the Florida Babcock Company from the Babcock family. Mr. Klinghoffer and his team also restructured Kitson & Partners to facilitate a joint venture with Evergreen Partners and thereafter negotiated an agreement between the Kitson Evergreen entities and Morgan Stanley Real Estate Fund V (MSREF).
The team included shareholders Martin Burkett and Mary Carroll on the corporate restructuring and merger side, with Donald Duffy and Frank Cordero on the tax issues side, and on shareholders Andrew Smulian and Janice Russell on the real estate side.
The Babcock Ranch, a vast cattle, farm and timber operation stretching across two counties in southwest Florida is a mixture of cypress swamp, native grassland, flatwoods and lands improved for agricultural operations. The deal preserves the single largest tract of contiguous conservation lands in Florida history while providing a water-recharge area for southwestern Florida.
On the remaining 17,000 acres, the joint venture among Kitson, Evergreen and MSREF intends to develop a new city which will include nearly 18,000 residences, offices, schools, and approximately 150,000 square feet of space allocated for government and civic uses. The development will also bring a significant amount of workforce housing to the area.