McFeely: ND’s richest person Gary Tharaldson buys $11 million home on Detroit Lake

Fargo billionaire calls home built by late Fargo businessman Ace Brandt ‘one of a kind’ property

DETROIT LAKES, Minn. — Gary Tharaldson and his wife Connie weren’t looking for a lake home on Big Detroit Lake, but the opportunity to buy a “one of a kind” property was too much to pass up.

Tharaldson, tagged by Forbes magazine as North Dakota’s wealthiest person with an estimated worth of $1.2 billion, purchased a lake home built by late Fargo developer and businessman Ace Brandt that went on the market recently for $10.995 million.

It’s a compound more than a lake home, really, on 14.6 acres with 334 feet of lakeshore. The main residence is 7,564 square feet. The property also includes a 2,670-square foot guest residence and a 5,494 square foot out-building with two private apartments.

The home’s address is 1701 Shorewood Drive in Detroit Lakes, a city about 45 minutes east of Fargo-Moorhead.

Brandt, best known for developing Scheels Arena in southwest Fargo and owning the Fargo Force junior hockey team, died of brain cancer in 2020 at age 60.

“Ace did a great job in building it and with all the amenities he put in it,” Tharaldson said Friday, shortly after closing on the property. “He liked nice things, and he liked things done well. He got the architect out of Chicago (Michael Abraham) to design it. He did a great job. It is a one of a kind home, a one of a kind property.”

Brandt redeveloped the property from 2011-2016. It originally had a home on it built in 1948.

Tharaldson, 77, is one of the most successful and well-known businessmen in North Dakota history. Forbes referred to him as the state’s first and only billionaire in 2019 by tabbing his net worth at $1 billion. He lives in Fargo.

Tharaldson’s current Minnesota lake home is on Middle Cormorant Lake, on a level piece of property he calls “perfect for kids” because the shoreline is sandy and the water depth drops off gradually. He said he and his wife discussed looking for a different place, perhaps on Pelican Lake (known as the most tony lake address for well-to-do Fargo and Moorhead residents), but weren’t necessarily actively searching.

But when Tharaldson heard Brandt’s former property had gone on the market last week, “we knew we had to take a look.”

An offer was made shortly after, and Tharaldson closed on the property Friday morning. Barry Gruchow of RE/MAX Legacy Realty was his agent.

The former home of Ace Brandt is for sale for almost $11 million.

“It doesn’t take us long to act once we make a decision,” Tharaldson chuckled.

He and his wife have other appointments this weekend — including Gary’s 60th high school reunion — but will celebrate their new purchase at the lake on Sunday.

Tharaldson’s story of humble beginnings to mega-wealth is familiar to those who follow business dealings in the state.

He grew up in a tiny Dazey, North Dakota, in a house without running water or heat. In high school, he worked at a local farm for $50 a month while playing three sports. After graduating from Valley City State University, he was a gym teacher and sold insurance.

He began building a hotel empire — and the resultant wealth — in 1982. That’s when Tharaldson purchased a Super 8 hotel in Valley City.

According to Forbes, he has since built, owned and operated more than 480 hotels, “opening one new hotel per month on average over 40 years.”

In 2006, according to Forbes, he sold 130 hotels to Goldman Sachs for about $1.2 billion, which he reinvested into land and commercial and residential developments. Tharaldson got back into the hospitality business shortly afterward, focusing on the growing sector of extended stay hotels.

He launched an ethanol facility west of Casselton that produces over 175 million gallons per year.

Tharaldson has a variety of business holdings across the country, according to Forbes, including Nevada, Colorado and Texas. The magazine said he bought a 13,000-acre aquifer in Arizona, betting the investment would boom if he could get a water-extraction contract in the parched southwest.

Tharaldson is a member of the National Softball Hall of Fame, as he sponsored (and played for) high-level teams for decades. The Gary Tharaldson School of Business at the University of Mary in Bismarck is named after him thanks to a multi-million dollar donation.

He spent much of his time in Las Vegas for a stretch in the 2000s. He has an office there, plus hotels and other real estate development projects. Tharaldson told Forbes in 2019 that he splurged for a 45th-floor condominium at the Waldorf Astoria on the Strip, one block from the Bellagio.

This home on Big Detroit Lake in Minnesota is listed for sale at $11 million.

He moved back to Fargo about seven years ago.

The main house at the lake has eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms. There’s an outdoor pool and five fireplaces.

The listing by Minneapolis-based the Prudden Company said “a rare opportunity now exists for one of the finest lakefront estates in all of Minnesota.”

“The luxurious living space includes the finest of handmade finishes coupled with stunning design and function making this home truly special,” the listing said. “With open entertaining areas all facing the infinity pool area with walls of modern architectural windows, providing breathtaking water views of the lake.”

Property taxes in 2022 were $45,922.

The exterior of the $11 million home for sale on Big Detroit Lake has extensive stonework.
Ace cabin five.jpg
The patio of an $11 million home on Big Detroit Lake.
An interior shot of a home on Big Detroit Lake in Minnesota that’s listed for sale at $11 million.
The basement of Ace Brandt’s former home on Big Detroit Lake features high ceilings and an extensive wine collection.

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