Wild Wild Country and Rajneeshpuram real estate transactions | Rajneesh | Netflix

By David Bramante | March 25, 2018

Like most viewers, my wife and I finished watching the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country last week and had a lot of unanswered questions about Rajneeshpuram. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the trailer at the bottom of this post. Here are some of the more common questions I’m sure everyone had:

  • Was this documentary based on true events? (Yes!)
  • Why hadn’t we ever heard of Rajneesh and Rajneeshpuram? (We don’t know!)
  • What was so magical about Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, later known as Osho? (No clue still!)
  • Where did all the money come from to run this type of operation?

And then… the Realtor and real estate investor in me starting asking some other questions. Really specific questions about the real estate involved, the transactions surrounding them, and any strategies involved in the acquisition and disposition of the property. I have questions like:

  • Who originally sold the real estate to the Rajneesh? What was the role, if any, of that seller during the events between 1981-1984?
  • At the time of acquisition, was the property listed for sale or was this an off-market deal privy only to locals?
  • As a follow-up, how does an investor in 1980-1981 find and acquire this type of property, especially being a foreign investor, when technology and data was so limited?
  • If you buy land out in nowhere, do you need any type of permits to built an entire city from scratch?
  • Who and how was the land acquired after the hay-day of Rajneeshpuram? Seems like the property traded hands, then strategically ended up in Young Life’s possession as a donation. Interesting…

Question: How does an investor in 1980-1981 find and acquire this type of property, especially being a foreign investor, when technology and data was so limited?

One of the questions I had really bugs me, and it is the one in which I try to imagine the scenario where a young Indian foreigner comes to the United States to purchase land for a Utopia.

This is especially true for Antelope, Oregon, circa 1980-1981, when Rajneesh’s personal secretary Ma Anand Sheela apparently had a budget around $6M to spend to built the group’s community. Without Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, LoopNet, and Costar, it is extremely difficult to imagine how anyone did anything before technology, especially when it came to land in such an obscure location as the Big Muddy Ranch in Oregon coupled with a foreign investment group.

From Wikipedia: “The city was on the site of a 64,229-acre (25,993 ha) Central Oregon property known as the Big Muddy Ranch, which was purchased in 1981 for $5.75 million ($15.5 million in today’s dollars).”

I can not even imagine a world where a foreigner comes to the United States of America, in the late ’70s and early ’80s looking for a large swath of land to purchase. For Realtors in Los Angeles, circa 2018, the technology and information at both real estate agents’ and brokers’ finger tips is only slightly more advanced than real estate investors. While title information is still limited, nearly everything else is being rapidly more transparent.

Question: If you buy land out in nowhere, do you need any type of permits to built an entire city from scratch?

From The Oregonian / OregonLive: “Rajneesh Investment Corp., the ranch owner, sought permission to develop a 95-lot subdivision soon after the incorporation. Although that plan was never carried out, the city issued 304 building permits for other residential and commercial development. By the end of 1982, the city had issued two dozen business licenses, mostly to Rajneesh Neo-Sannyas International Commune.”

Question: Who and how was the land acquired after the hay-day of Rajneeshpuram?

The other question that I would like answered is how the disposition of this property was handled, or mishandled, and who may have financially benefited from all of this?

It would seem the first owner in these chain of real estate transactions around this huge land sale, the original seller to the Osho, did extremely well but it’s hard to compare. What was the asking price versus the purchase price? What was the market rate for a large amount of obscure land?

Then, once politically and legally damaged, what could possibly be fair market value for Rajneeshpuram at the time of disposition? Could someone have benefited from an artificially depressed price, especially when thousands of people had built an entire city from scratch…

I’m still researching title on this one. 🙂

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David Bramante is the CEO and Team Leader of Keller Williams Realty Downtown Los Angeles, and the founder of BRE Investment in Echo Park.

He has been a top producing California Realtor since 2005, helping clients sell, buy, invest and lease residential and commercial real estate in Los Angeles.

As a real estate consultant, he has hired, mentored and coached over 150 Realtors in Southern California, including many top producing Realtors in Los Angeles County.

For questions about the above blog post, becoming a real estate agent, or joining Keller Williams Realty, send an email to David directly at david (at) breinvestment.com or davidbramante (at) kw.com.