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St. Louis Zoo withdraws offer to buy Grant's Farm

Grant's Farm bridge with sign thanking attendees for visiting
William K. Busch Brewing Company

Updated 1:00 p.m. March 4 with Zoo's offer withdrawn:

The St. Louis Zoo’s plan to buy Grant’s Farm from a Busch family trust has fallen through. In a statement the Zoo says it’s withdrawn its conditional offer of about $30 million citing a legal dispute among the six heirs of the late beer baron Gussie Busch. Four of the six siblings have wanted to release the land from the trust, but Billy Busch is fighting to keep it in the family.  Earlier this week, he unveiled a five-year plan to acquire and develop the family-attraction with a small theater, and brewery.  A St. Louis Circuit Court hearing regarding the sale is scheduled for March 28.

Original article March 2:

A prominent member of the Busch family is providing more details about his plans for Grant's Farm. Billy Busch is trying to acquire the St. Louis County attraction and has unveiled a five-year business plan that calls for a small theater, brewery and continued free admission.

Busch wants to keep the farm in the family. It's currently in the hands of the Busch Family Trust, which includes Busch and his five brothers and sisters. Four of them are interested in a possible sale to the St. Louis Zoo.

Billy Busch's five-year business plan also calls for  life-sized statues of his parents, Gertrude and August "Gussie" Busch. The late beer industry giant opened Grant's Farm in 1954. The younger Busch contends his father always wanted to keep the attraction in the family.

The St. Louis Zoo has made a conditional offer to buy the farm. It's a roughly $27 million proposal, with an extra $3 million for a nearby pasture and parking lot. Global beer conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev has offered to give the zoo $30 million to help with the purchase.

Even with that contribution, the zoo still might ask St. Louis area voters to approve a sales tax to cover annual operating costs.

Busch says his roughly $24 million offer is privately-funded. It does not include the pasture or nearby parking lot. Busch hopes to lease those properties from his brother Andy, who is the owner.

"It is home, and I don’t want to lose it to anyone, including the Zoo, which will require the use of the public’s hard-earned tax dollars, which is totally unnecessary," said Busch in a press release.

Rendering of a small "Kräftig Brauhaus" planned for Grant's Farm.
Credit William K. Busch Brewing Company
A small "Kräftig Brauhaus" is part of Billy Busch's five-year plan for Grant's Farm.

"My plan clearly makes the most sense, is financially sustainable, and achieves the wishes of our father, Gussie Busch."

If Billy Busch can't convince his siblings to accept his plan, the future of Grant's Farm will likely be decided in court.

Wayne Pratt is the Broadcast Operations Manager and former morning newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio.