HOUSTON – The Karolyi Ranch, a sprawling 1,687-acre property north of Houston that was once the summer training site for female Olympic gymnasts, has a new owner with potentially different interests than gold medals.
Voyager Group LTD purchased the property for $6,000,000 from a business entity run by Bela and Marta Karolyi, according to county clerk documents obtained by KPRC 2 Investigates.
The group is tied to Timberwood Management Group, a business entity affiliated with Steely Lumber, a Huntsville Southern Yellow Pine Lumber producer.
Steely Lumber declined to discuss the transaction or plans for the property.
KPRC 2 Investigates also learned that shortly after the deal was consummated, Bela and Marta Karolyi left the country to return to their native Romania to visit relatives for the summer.
“They’re not in the best of health and it requires a lot of upkeep out at the ranch, and they just couldn’t do it anymore,” said David Berg, the attorney representing the Karolyis.
The Karolyis were once the premiere trainers for elite gymnasts. In fact, USA Gymnastics named the Karolyi Ranch an official training site in 2011.
The agreement was canceled in 2018 after it was learned Larry Nassar, the former team doctor, had sexually assaulted young athletes in several locations, including the ranch.
The Karolyis were exonerated and never charged with a crime.
Nassar will most likely die in prison for his multiple crimes against young elite athletes. His federal sentence alone is projected to keep him incarcerated until he is 105 years old.
The Karolyis still face multiple civil lawsuits tied to the incidents.
The ranch, which still displays a sign warning parents they are not allowed to enter the training facility, appeared mostly empty on a recent visit to the property, which is situated off a patchy dirt road in the Sam Houston National Forest.
“There were school buses coming up and down the road several times a week,” recalled Ramona Bellipanni, who lives near the property.
Those days appear to be over for good now, and since then, the Karolyi training camp has been widely maligned by gymnasts and their attorneys.
“It was dirty. They weren’t fed well. They didn’t have privacy. The bathrooms were disgusting, and they had no access to regularly call their parents,” said Michelle Simpson Tuegel, an attorney who represents multiple athletes in their civil lawsuits.
Communication with the outside world for the girls, some of them pre-teens, is now a highlighted problem at the Karolyi Ranch.
Katie Nakamura, who won two world gymnastics titles, was not one of Nassar’s victims, according to her own account. But at a young age, she noted the stress it caused her to be isolated from her family while training at the facility.
“There was never any cell service, so I couldn’t really talk to my parents because the service was super poor,” Nakamura said.
While the ranch may be history, the horror many of the young athletes experienced at the ranch is not.
Dozens of civil lawsuits naming Nassar, USA Gymnastics and the United States Olympic Committee remain unresolved. This includes civil lawsuits naming the Karolyis.
The bankruptcy filing by USA Gymnastics has further complicated the matter.
In Walker County, criminal proceedings against former USA Gymnastics CEO Steve Penny are still pending.
Penny faces a tampering charge, after being accused of ordering the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch.