Nobody knows who bought The Sea Ranch Lodge and its affiliated properties from Fillmore Capital Partners in 2018. According to the Lodge’s general manager, Kristina Jetton, the current owners wish to remain anonymous because it’s “just what they have asked for… not just because of privacy, but because of safety.”
We’ve labored over this, trying to pry the truth from Jetton through a combination of KGB tactics and too many Mai Tais at the Lodge bar. But nothing is working. She’s a vault.
So we’ve taken a more traditional approach: pure speculation.
Our sizable team of investigative reporters worked tirelessly to solve the mystery over the past 12 months. Spy cams, flight trackers, Google searches, Mai Tais, inappropriate questions directed towards lodge staff, hiding out in yurts during lodge events, eves dropping on the links course, more Mai Tais, and dumpster driving–we’ve done it all. Believe us when we tell you that no stone has been left unturned.
At long last, our investigative reporters have something to say about it. They whittled the current lodge ownership down to 6 potential owners. We are confident it’s at least one of them. Possibly all 6.
Let’s dig in.
If you dined at The Sea Ranch Lodge Restaurant anytime during the winter of 2021-2022, you probably ate something doused in buttermilk dressing. Hardly any dish escaped it, from the salads to the entrees.
One of the strangest things our editorial staff ever ate was a halibut dish topped with buttermilk dressing-soaked arugula leaves. And we don’t mean strangest at the lodge. It was among the strangest things we ever ate. The menu just said that “arugula” was on the dish. It seemed out of place, but didn’t raise any alarms. Maybe there’d be some acid on that arugula. Or maybe an umami surprise mixed into it (e.g., nuts or mushrooms). But buttermilk dressing? That’s a guaranteed way to make sure you never taste that fish. Just an odd, odd choice.
Buttermilk dressing is less omnipresent today than it used to be at The Lodge. But you still see it sneaking onto plates where it doesn’t belong.
To be clear, that buttermilk dressing isn’t deterring The Sea Ranch Reader staff from dining there regularly. It’s just that we’ve honed our menu reading skills and know what to avoid. There’s (at least) one excellent, perfectionist bartender whose drinks are always impeccable. She’s an anomaly in rural settings. Our hypothesis is that she worked at some of the better restaurants in San Francisco (or similar) before moving to Mendomoma. And we’ve gained nearly 15 pounds of body weight, collectively, from the consistently delicious grilled and roasted chicken that’s a mainstay on the menu.
Still, we have arrived at one conclusion: Clover Sonoma, the largest local producer of buttermilk, owns a majority stake in the Lodge and is using the restaurant as a marketing channel.
There’s been a lot of hand wringing about the Lodge’s proposal to expand The Sea Ranch Airstrip. But the plan’s opponents have a tough fight ahead of them. That’s because Wheels Up, the owner of the lodge, came here to do two things: 1) put buttermilk dressing on a ton of dishes and 2) get their jets flying into The Sea Ranch. And they just ran out of buttermilk.
Private charter jet operators have a crystal clear post-pandemic agenda: Market expansion. Having squeezed what they can out of larger California markets since 2020, Wheels Up is looking to grow its market share by moving into previously under-valued resort communities, including our own The Sea Ranch. It’s not like they were going to let XO get here first.
Do you know what bothers Peter Thiel more than liberals with degrees from elite colleges? The potential for liberals with degrees from elite colleges to evade his economic and cultural reach where he can’t troll you. Trump was phase one of his master plan. Phase 2 was the purchase of The Sea Ranch Lodge, something he still brags about being, “next level contrarian”, whatever that means.
So the next time that loud private helicopter, low flying jet, village of yurts, or sizable Republican party event at The Sea Ranch lodge gets under your skin, remember that Peter Thiel totally got you.
The Sea Ranch Foundation
You think the fat cats over at The Sea Ranch Foundation spend your donations on culture and arts programs in greater Mendonoma? Au contraire, amigos. They have bigger fish to fry and even bigger aspirations.
One of those aspirations is to become the dominant private property owner on the entire California coast. Over the past decade, the foundation has been making increasingly risky real estate investments between Santa Barbara and Mendocino to fund their lavish lifestyles.
Don’t worry if you don’t like the current ownership. The Sea Ranch Lodge is just one of dozens of Sea Ranch Foundation properties, and they rarely hold onto any specific property for more than 5 years. It will be in new hands before you know it.
Live Nation Entertainment
Live Nation Entertainment purchased the Lodge in 2018 to grow their live music venue business. Their corporate development team drew a 100 mile radius around San Francisco and uncovered that The Sea Ranch is the exact same distance from the SF city center as Indio is from the Los Angeles City center.
Eureka! The Lodge’s properties might just be the next version of Coachella, where people dress up and take pictures while a live music soundtrack plays in the background.
Expect the music festivals to be a lot like the record selection at The Lodge. Meaning, it will be curated by an interior designer or social media influencer and not someone that actually likes music.
The planning is just getting underway, but the Live Nation Amphitheater at The Sea Ranch will likely host three types of music festivals you’ll never want to attend: 1) The Nostalgic Music Biopic Festival, headlined by much older acts such as Elton John, the surviving members of Queen, and digital avatars of The Doors, 2) The Bands You Tend to Hear At Professional Football and Baseball Stadiums Festival, specifically headlined by Journey, Ozzy Osbourne, C&C Music Factory, White Stripes, AC/DC and Guns N Roses (sp?) and 3) A full week of guys that sometimes played music with guys that used to play with various members of Grateful Dead.
The Four The Sea Ranch Association Board Directors Who Are Passing a Lot of Motions Together
Much like Peter Thiel, these board directors totally got you. It took years of planning and a lot of luck, but these four Lodge owners managed to get onto the board of directors at the exact same time.
Sayonara, The Sea Ranch as you know it. You are now beholden to a new form of corporate governance that prioritizes wild, irresponsible parties over both our Redwoods , the seals, and our residents. Bummer.
Gualala Redwood Timber LLC
Speaking of bummers, the Gualala Redwood Timber LLC bought The Sea Ranch Lodge in 2018. In addition to placing moles on the board, they’re now the largest property owner at The Sea Ranch.
Look forward to an upcoming series of Gualala watershed logging history exhibits at the Lodge, as well as several scientific meetings on the ecological benefits of selective logging practices.
And even when the Lodge isn’t hosting pro-logging events, you’re still guaranteed that several timber lobbyists from International Paper and Weyerhaeuser Co. will be taking turns playing the worst records on the Lodge lounge turntable.
Long-Time Community Member and Former TSRA Board Director, David Skibbins*
We think most of you underestimated David, particularly his ability to raise nearly $85M in private capital to purchase The Sea Ranch Lodge right under your noses.
As expected, reforestation of the meadows near the Lodge and along The Sea Ranch Links course (part of the Lodge) are his top priority.
Ever wonder what it would be like to play golf in a Redwood forest? Hold it together for another 40 years and you’ll find out.
There’s no better community member than a mystery one that wishes to remain private and anonymous. Who knows? Maybe The Sea Ranch Reader Editors bought the lodge a few years back. Only time will tell.
In the meanwhile, know that the investigative reporters at The Sea Ranch Reader took this investigation as far as they could. We’ll leave the rest of the debate to you. Preferably on the Listserv so we can write about it.
*In case you’re a self-deputized humor sheriff, don’t worry. The editors asked David if it was okay to include him in this list. He was fine with that, but still wouldn’t confirm or deny whether he’s the majority owner of the Sea Ranch Lodge… which just makes this whole thing even more suspicious.