While businesses and governments may always issue more stocks and bonds, there is one asset that has had a fairly constant supply on Earth for the previous several million years: land. And some Americans control a significant portion of that asset.
The Land Report produces an annual list of the largest private landowners in the United States, based on total acreage. According to their most current ranking, each of the 20 people and families with the most acreage has more than 500,000 acres.
Many of the country’s largest landowners are families with long, inter-generational roots that have held massive swaths of ranch or woods for decades. Some are newer additions, with wealthy entrepreneurs from areas such as telecommunications and fast-food investing in the world’s oldest asset.
According to The Land Report, the following are the top 20 private landowners in the United States.
Top 20 Landowners in America
1. John Malone
Land Area: 2.2 million acres
John Malone is the country’s largest private landowner. Malone built his money as a media magnate, founding and running Tele-Communications, Inc. (TCI) until selling it to AT&T for $50 billion in 1999.
Malone’s 2.2 million acres are mostly in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming, where he has prosperous cattle ranches.
2. Ted Turner
Land Area: 2 million acres
Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, owns 2 million acres of property, mostly in New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Georgia. Much of Turner’s acreage is utilized as grazing grounds for approximately 50,000 buffalo — the world’s biggest private herd of bison.
3. Emmerson Family
Land Area: 2 million acres
Sierra Pacific Industries, owned and operated by the Emmerson family, logs viable timber after forest fires and sells it to lumber dealers. The family controls around 2 million acres in California and Washington through Sierra Pacific.
4. Reed Family
Land Area: 1.7 million acres
Green Diamond Resource Co. has been owned and controlled by the Reed Family for five generations. The family’s 1.7 million acres are mostly located in Washington, Oregon, and California.
5. Stan Kroenke
Land Area: 1.4 million acres
Stan Kroenke, a real estate billionaire and Los Angeles Rams owner owns 1.4 million acres of land in the United States, including a 124,000-acre ranch in Montana and additional acreage in Wyoming. Kroenke is married to Ann Walton Kroenke, the Wal-Mart fortune’s heiress.
6. Irving Family
Land Area: 1.2 million acres
The Irving family is the country’s sixth largest private landowner. In addition to the 1.2 million acres owned by the Irvings, most of which are in Maine, the family also owns 1.9 million acres in Canada. Lumber, newspapers, and petrochemicals are among the family industries.
7. Brad Kelley
Land Area: 1.2 million acres
In 2012, Brad Kelley’s investment company bought the 762-acre Calumet Farm in Kentucky, a thoroughbred horse breeding and training facility. Today, the majority of Kelley’s 1.2 million acres are in Kentucky.
8. Singleton Family
Land Area: 1.1 million acres
The Singleton family owns a number of ranches, most of which are in New Mexico. The family’s 1.1 million acres of land includes property in California as well.
9. Peter Buck
Land Area: 925,000 acres
Peter Buck made his money as a co-founder of the Subway food chain. Buck is the founder of Tall Timber Trust, one of Maine’s largest forest owners. Buck has 925,000 acres in total.
10. King Ranch heirs
Land Area: 911,215 acres
The King Ranch heirs possess a four-parcel ranch in southern Texas that spans 825,000 acres, making it the state’s biggest ranch. The ranch grew from property acquired by Captain Richard King in 1853 and has been passed down through generations.
11. Pingree Heirs
Land Area: 830,000 acres
In the 1800s, David Pingree, often known as the Merchant Prince of Salem, developed an empire that spanned over a million acres. Pingree’s heirs now hold around 830,000 acres, largely in Maine, through Seven Islands Land Co., a timber firm, through his fifth, sixth, and seventh generation of relatives.
12. Wilks Brothers
Land Area: 702,367 acres
Frac Tech, a natural gas extraction firm founded by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks in 2002, was sold for $3.5 billion in 2011. They have been collecting land since then. The Wilks brothers are the greatest landowners in both Montana and Idaho, and they also control ranches in Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas.
13. Briscoe Heirs
Land Area: 640,000 acres
Former Texas governor Dolph Briscoe Jr.’s heirs hold a total of 640,000 acres of land. They own the 100,000-acre Catarina Ranch in south Texas.
14. Lykes Heirs
Land Area: 615,000 acres
The Lykes family has a 337,000-acre ranch in Florida that includes sugar cane and livestock operations, as well as a 264,555-acre ranch in west Texas. The land’s proprietors are the heirs of the late Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes, who retired from medicine to raise cattle and produce citrus.
15. Hamer Family
Land Area: 600,000 acres
The Hamer family owns around 600,000 acres of land in West Virginia, the majority of which is forested. For five generations, the family has cut hardwood timber from the site.
16. O’Connor Heirs
Land Area: 587,800 acres
The late Thomas O’Connor, who moved to the United States from Ireland in the 1800s, left heirs with approximately 500,000 acres, including the O’Connor Ranch in south Texas.
The family’s grandfather possessed half a million acres in Texas, and his son discovered oil on family land, which increased the family fortune significantly.
17. Thomas Peterffy
Land Area: 581,000 acres
In 1965, Thomas Peterffy came to the United States as a refugee from Hungary. Peterffy amassed a fortune on Wall Street as a great investor and inventor. In 2015, he became one of the greatest landowners in the United States when he paid $700 million for 561,000 acres of land in northern Florida.
18. Ford Family
Land Area: 580,000 acres
The late Kenneth Ford family possess 580,000 acres, mostly in Oregon. During the Great Depression, Ford worked in the forestry industry.
19. Martin Family
Land Area: 570,000 acres
The Martin family, proprietors of the almost 100-year-old RoyOMartin Lumber Company, has approximately 500,000 acres of property, the majority of which is in Louisiana.
20. Stimson Family
Land Area: 552,000 acres
The Stimson Lumber Company, founded by Thomas Douglas Stimson and now based in the Pacific Northwest, has been in the family for over six generations. The Stimson family now controls 552,000 acres, mostly in Montana and Oregon.
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