Hedge fund operator John Paulson identified as buyer of $24.5 million Aspen ranch

By Troy Hooper
Real AspenJuly 13, 2010
The buyer of Aspen's most expensive single-family sale in almost a year is actually John Paulson, the New York hedge fund operator who made billions betting that Americans would default on their loans, according to local brokers knowledgeable of the sale, who clarified a previous RealAspen.com report.

Inside Aspen Lakes Ranch

RealAspen.com initially reported Monday that the buyer was Henry Paulson, the former secretary of the U.S. Treasury and one-time CEO of global securities firm Goldman Sachs. Henry Paulson's daughter quickly disputed the report, saying she thought “it might be another Paulson” and Michele Davis, Henry Paulson's spokeswoman, also confirmed her client had nothing to do with the Aspen property.

In addition to sharing the same last name, John and Henry Paulson also both have ties to Goldman Sachs. John Paulson could be a star witness in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission civil lawsuit against Goldman Sachs, in which the federal government alleges Goldman Sachs duped investors out of $1 billion by unethically packaging complex mortgage investments that ultimately burned the investors. John Paulson, 54, is portrayed as a visionary in the best-selling book “The Big Short,” written by Michael Lewis, who details how Paulson anticipated the nation's housing collapse and parlayed that into one of the greatest financial gains in American history.

According to sources knowledgeable of the sale, including a broker who met him while he was shopping for real estate in Aspen, John Paulson is the man behind Aspen Lakes Ranch LLC, a New York-based company that formed just weeks before it paid $24.5 million for a seven-bedroom, eight-and-a-half bath palace that local developer Bob Bowden built on spec on a 8.9-acre estate off of McLain Flats.

Few people knew the identity of the new Aspen Lakes Ranch owner. Several brokers who work alongside Mason & Morse agent Brian Hazen, who represented the buyer, said the identity was “a closely guarded secret” at the realty firm and, as is the case with several high-profile real estate purchasers, a confidentiality clause was built into the contract. Some of the small number of brokers inside and outside of the company who had gleaned any information about the buyer's identity confused John Paulson with Henry Paulson due to their identical last names and ties to Goldman Sachs.

Bowden and Hazen both declined comment.

John Paulson is worth an estimated $12 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

"We have a policy not to comment on the properties that Mr. Paulson buys or personal aspects of Mr. Paulson's life," John Paulson's spokesman Armel Leslie said Tuesday.

The ranch sale will help stabilize Pitkin County's battered real estate market, which appears on the mend, with over $458 million in sales through May, or 12.45 percent more dollars than in the first five months of 2009, according to Land Title Guarantee, which tracks local and regional real estate trends.

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