Jun 8, 2020
A Goldman Sachs cowboy lists horse ranch with near-50% price cut
Fredric Steck had been at Goldman Sachs for almost 20 years when he decided to become a gentleman cowboy.
Although he was working in New York at the time as the head of sales for the firm’s U.S. fixed income division, most of his family lived in California and he returned whenever he could. “New York, with all due respect, was not my favorite place,” he says. “It’s an energetic place with a lot of incredible things going on, but it’s not an easy place to be.”
Steck knew he wanted a place in the country because he’d become increasingly involved in “cutting,” a rodeo-adjacent equestrian competition where a horse and rider separate a cow from a herd. (If you haven’t heard of the sport, there’s a reason, Steck says: “It’s like a swim-meet—when your child is in the water it’s interesting, but when they’re not, it’s pretty boring to watch.”)
He briefly considered buying a place in either Colorado, Montana, or Wyoming to raise horses, but “I’m a SoCal guy, and Western states are either cold or windy nine months out of the year,” he says.
Instead, he settled on a 4,675-acre ranch in the Santa Ynez Valley, about 30 miles northwest of Santa Barbara and 145 miles from Los Angeles. He closed on a property for US$10 million on Dec. 31, 1999, and immediately began to turn it into a proper residence.
He built a rambling, Spanish colonial-style main house designed by David L. Leavengood, whom Architectural Digest called “one of the country’s foremost authorities on ranch architecture” in a 2009 feature on the property.
Steck also built an 11,000-square-foot, 11-stall horse barn and restored the property’s fields of wildflowers, sage, oak, and gray pine—while continuing to commute from New York to what was now known as Rancho Latigo. (Latigo is Spanish for “horse crop.”)
In about 2002, Steck relocated to Goldman’s San Francisco office in its wealth management division, and in 2008 he retired.
Since then, Steck has used the ranch regularly, but with his five children and many more grandchildren scattered across the globe, he says, “I’d like to be a little bit more available to go around visiting my family. And also, this is a big place for one person.”
He first put the property on the market in 2016 for a hefty US$45 million; after it failed to find a bidder, he’s relisting it for US$24.5 million with Neyshia Go and Aaron Kirman with Aaron Kirman Group at Compass, along with Hillary Ryan, who’s also at Compass.
“We’ve priced it at a level to say that we’re motivated to sell,” Steck says of the 46 per cent reduction, “and we’re trying to offer a real value proposition.”
Steck bought the property from Jean-Claude Brouillet, a larger-than life adventurer who joined the French resistance as a 14-year-old in World War II, founded an airline in Gabon, sold it and bought a yacht he called African Queen, set up a black pearl operation in Polynesia, founded a 50,000-acre cattle farm in Paraguay, and also, for a time, owned the ranch in Santa Ynez.
When Steck acquired the property it was used as a cow-calf operation, and the ranch manager lived in a three-bedroom house.
There was also another structure, a massive ranch-style home—larger than the 14,000-square-foot house Steck replaced it with—which he guesses Brouillet had initially intended to use as a hotel or guest ranch. “He never really completed the project, though,” Steck explains. “Jean-Claude was a think-big, visionary type of guy.”
Steck, who says he is an environmentalist, was reticent at first to take down that large house. “The biggest decision was, ‘Do you remodel it, or do you scrap it?’”
It turned out that it would be much cheaper to rip the house down and start from scratch, so Steck invited Habitat for Humanity to come and take as much of the house as they could to reuse elsewhere. “We were really conscious of not putting the whole place in the junkyard,” he says.
Meanwhile, he took down all of the property’s fences and removed the cattle. “I wanted the land to repair,” he says. “I wanted to turn the ranch into an environmental jewel.” There are eight miles of horse trails, and there’s also a helipad and tennis court.
Today the flora are restored, with buckwheat turning a vivid red in autumn and poppies and other wildflowers blooming in spring; the ranch abuts the Los Padres National Forest and the Sedgwick Reserve, meaning there’s no possibility for development to encroach. “I wanted to do the right thing by the land,” Steck says. “I think I’ve accomplished that.”
Restoring the land was the first goal. Creating a family compound for his five children was the second.
The completed main house, with its distinctive chimneys and surrounding stonework, is set on the southwest corner of the property.
It has six en suite bedrooms spread across two floors, and in the basement there’s a 10,000-bottle wine cellar and a home theater.
Admittedly the 27-room home is very large. “We didn’t want the rooms to feel cavernous,” Steck says, “so each room has warmth to it,” meaning the house might be a mansion, but the rooms are scaled to feel like a home.
There are six working fireplaces, a huge kitchen, a formal dining room, and multiple living areas. The master suite includes two bathrooms, “for you and your spouse. That’s what keeps relationships alive: separate bathrooms.”
The interior is full of small touches—the ceiling beams are reclaimed railroad trestle—and the house is filled with Persian rugs and custom chandeliers.
It was decorated by Amy Weaver, of Weaver Design Group in Marin County. “She was the only person to be on budget,” Steck says. There’s also a guest house across from the horse barn, which comes with three more guest suites, a kitchen, and a living area.
Outside there’s a huge pool, a tiled interior courtyard, and a garden designed exclusively with native flora.
For a time, the property served its purpose. Steck would compete in cutting competitions, his children would come from San Francisco to hang out on the weekends, “but the one thing I didn’t factor in was that my youngest daughter would decide to live in London, and my oldest would live in NYC, and my other daughter would live in San Francisco,” he says. “The problem with kids is they get older.”
Steck has also started spending more time in Milan, where he has several business interests. On top of that, he’s retired from cutting. It was time, in his own words, to let go.
He says he “probably won’t” get back the money he put into the property, but doesn’t seem overly upset at the prospect of exiting at a loss.
“I’ve gotten a lot of years living here,” he says. “I was never going to outlive the place, so it’s time for someone else to enjoy it.”