Business

Justice Family Farms top bidder at Anderson Circle Farm auction

Jim Justice, a farmer and coal executive and owner of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., bought Anderson Circle Farm in Mercer County for $25 million. The farm includes Walnut Hall, right, other estate buildings and 5,500 acres. Schrader Real Estate & Auction Co.
Jim Justice, a farmer and coal executive and owner of The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., bought Anderson Circle Farm in Mercer County for $25 million. The farm includes Walnut Hall, right, other estate buildings and 5,500 acres. Schrader Real Estate & Auction Co. ASSOCIATED PRESS

West Virginia farming and coal executive Jim Justice, representing his Justice Family Farms company, was the winning bidder in this week's auction of Anderson Circle Farm, which includes more than 5,500 acres in Mercer County.

The property, which Justice intends to keep as farmland, will be his first farm holding in the state, though he owns a number of small coal operations.

"We've got a lot of friends and respect for the state," Justice, who also owns The Greenbrier resort in West Virginia, said. "And the property down there is a beautiful piece of property."

Justice Family Farms also owns farmland in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, where Justice and his family live. The company raises Limousin cattle in Virginia and intends to do so in Kentucky. Anderson Circle Farm was well-known for its livestock operations.

The farm was amassed by the late business executive Ralph G. Anderson. Anderson, a 1950 graduate of the University of Kentucky who died in 2010 at age 86, founded Cincinnati-based Belcan, one of the nation's largest engineering firms.

Justice said it was too early to know how his ownership might affect employment on the farm, which he bought for $25 million.

"It will depend on exactly what we end up doing," he said. "There may be a possibility of increasing the size of the grain elevator. And you could really get serious in the Limousin cattle business. You can maybe even develop a part of the farm through the horse aspect.

"Any of those spinoffs would result in increased employment, but I think that's premature to talk about that."

He said it was possible he and his wife would use one of the estate homes on the property as a second residence.

"At the same time, I'm sure we'll look at the possibility of renting some of those homes out," he said.

The community, he said, can rest assured he's interested in maintaining the site's beauty.

"I'm awfully particular about trying not to disrupt history and heritage," he said. "I'm really into that, so we'll try to do our best to carry the torch."

The Justice family already visits this area, as it has a number of connections here. Justice's sister attended the University of Kentucky, and his wife has several race horses and visits Keeneland during its meets.

Also, The Greenbrier has a marketing partnership with Keeneland that the organization announced last year.

The packages announced by Keeneland and the resort included daily flights to Keeneland's race meet and Thoroughbred sales. There also was talk of eventually running a $15 million train between White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., and Lexington. The train could include restored brunch, lounge and passenger cars.

Justice said the relationship between the organizations remained in its infancy, but he described his partners at Keeneland as "class-act people."

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