Ben Hill Griffin III Snaps Up More Than 4,000 Acres Near Frostproof from Alico


Published: Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 9:57 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, April 26, 2012 at 9:57 p.m.

FROSTPROOF | Ben Hill Griffin III is buying 4,020 acres of pastureland near Frostproof for $10.1 million, but not for corporate reasons.

He's purchasing the land from Alico Inc., the company he once led and his father nurtured into an agriculture powerhouse. This acreage, he said, was part of the original land his father bought when he purchased Alico in 1960.

"This was very sentimental to me," Griffin said Wednesday, "but it's good business, too. It's excellent cattle grazing land, and that's what I'm going to do with it."

W. Mark Humphrey, senior vice president and chief financial officer for Alico, said the land was surplus property for Alico.

"We were not running grove on it or sugar cane," he said Wednesday. "It wasn't generating net income."

Griffin said he saw a real-estate sign on the acreage, which fronts the north side of Avon Park Cutoff Road just west of U.S. 27 near Frostproof.

"I called about it, and we were able to work out a deal," he said.

"I was very appreciative to Alico for allowing me to bid on the property, and for seeing it through to the successful conclusion of the transaction. This is very meaningful to me."

Griffin is chairman of Ben Hill Griffin Inc., a Frostproof-based company that his father founded.

He was chairman of Alico until 2004, when the family's assets were divided between Griffin and his four sisters.

They took Alico, while he retained Ben Hill Griffin Inc.

Griffin's brother-in-law, John R. Alexander, is chairman of Alico now. Because of that relationship, and because Alico is a public company, an audit committee within Alico's board reviewed and approved the proposed purchase to ensure it was in the company's best interest, according to a prepared statement by Alico.

Griffin said he's known the land since he was a boy.

"It's in the heart of Berea," he said, "and I've known that property myself for more than 50 years. It has been protected in its natural state since 1960."

Griffin is buying the land personally, he said. Although it abuts Ben Hill Griffin Inc. property, it won't be a part of the company's holdings.

"I bought it as a cattle ranch," Griffin said.

"I may plant citrus on about 40 acres. We'll see."

[ Suzie Schottelkotte can be reached at suzie.schottelkotte@theledger.com or 863-533-9070. ]

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