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The old saying about land is that “they aren't making any more of it.”
While many view investments in land as a solid choice for consistent returns, these groups have taken it to the extreme.
According to the 2019 Winter Land Report, these are the 13 largest private land owners in the United States.
We will be covering how much land they own, where it is, what type of land it is as well as how they amassed this land.
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1. John Malone – 2,200,000 Acres
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Billionaire John Malone has the title of the largest private land owner in the United States. His fortune was made in the media space, where he still today owns many media assets we all consume today.
Currently the chairman and largest shareholder of Liberty Media, he also owns 28% of Discover Communications. He also owns 8% of the sports team the Atlanta Braves.
Thanks to his land ownership and media assets, his net worth is now a staggering $9.2 Billion.
After spending a summer in Pennsylvania, he decided to go on a massive land buying spree that largely has not stopped. He owns land in Florida, New Mexico, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Colorado and Wyoming.
This is a combination of farmland, ranch land and timberland.
2. Emmerson Family – 2,078,032 Acres
Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson and his family collectively own over 2 Million acres of land.
Particularly, they invest in timberland. His company Sierra Pacific Industries is the largest private lumber production firm in the United States. They own 14 different sawmills sprawling across the country.
Red started SPI with his father back in 1949.
Despite being 89 years old, Red drives his pick up truck to work himself before 8am, 6 days a week.
Red and his team also capitalize on wildfires, going in when most people are getting out. Forbes estimates that the Emmerson Family has made more money from logging after forest fires than anyone else in America.
3. Ted Turner – 2,000,000 Acres
Ted Turner is most well known for his involvement in television production. He was the founder of the Cable News Network, the very first 24-hour cable news channel.
Most of the land that Turner owns is ranches. These are referred to as “Turner Ranches.” Each one operates as a working business, supported by bison, hunting, fishing and tourism.
The ranches are also using cutting edge practices for water conservation as well as timber management, as well as releasing native species back into the wild land.
Across all of the ranches, Turner Enterprises is managing over 45,000 bison.
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4. Reed Family – 1,726,295 Acres
What happens when a failed logger marries into a family with massive control in the logging industry? You get the 4th largest land owner in the United States.
Reed was hired in 1897 to manage the Simpson Logging Company. Reed married Simpson's daughter in 1901. After Simpson died in 1906, Reed assumed control of Simpson Logging.
In 2014, a 600,000 acre timberland purchase in Oregon is what landed them on this list.
This family owns prime forest land across California, Washington and Oregon.
5. Stan Kroenke – 1,380,000 Acres
Kroenke Ranches is quickly becoming one of America's largest renewable energy landlords.
In 2016, he completed what was deemed the most expensive ranch sale ever. The 510,000 acre ranch he purchased is believed to be the largest ranch behind a single fence in the United States.
Stan earned his wealth from sports. He is the owner of the NFL team Los Angeles Rams.
6. Irving Family – 1,247,880 Acres
This family owns land specifically in the state of Maine. This makes them the single largest landowner in this state.
Outside of the United States, this family owns a whopping 2 million acres of land in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick Canada. They also own all 3 english-language newspapers in New Brunswick.
One of the key initiatives of the Irving Family is planting trees. In the US and Canada, they plant around 20 Million trees annually. To date, they have planted over 1 Billion trees.
Outside of newspapers, they are also largely involved in the oil business.
7. Peter Buck – 1,236,000 Acres
Next on the list, we have the co-founder of Subway!
Peter Buck and his family own a lot of timberland, and they are rapidly expanding this land portfolio. In 2020, they acquired an additional 311,000 acres of timberland in Maine.
Outside of Maine, Buck's foundation has also purchased land in New York and Connecticut.
8. Brad Kelley – 1,139,984 Acres
Brad Kelley is a tobacco billionaire, however he has been selling much of his land in recent years. He may not be on this list for much longer as a result.
Kelley owns ranches in Texas, Florida and New Mexico.
9. Singleton Family – 1,110,000 Acres
The Singleton Ranches started in 1986 with their first land purchase in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Singleton wanted to specifically preserve the ranching heritage that has been around in New Mexico for hundreds of years.
Singleton raises and breeds horses and cows on this land today.
Dr. Singleton passed away in 1999, but now his 5 children continue operating his ranches on his behalf carrying on his mission.
Henry Earl Singleton was an electrical engineer. At one point, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He was the co-founder of Teledyne, Inc a publicly traded industrial conglomerate.
10. King Ranch Heirs – 911,215 Acres
Henry King amassed his fortunes as a steamboat captain. He diversified his wealth into land over the course of many years. However, most of his fame comes from the sprawling King Ranch, dating back to the 1800s.
King Ranch Heirs now own ranches in Texas in California that derive income from ranching, hunting, farming and oil operations.
11. Pingree Heirs – 830,000 Acres
Land presents not only an opportunity to build wealth for yourself, but also for your posterity. This is certainly the case with the Pingree Heirs.
David Pingree was a merchant in Massachussetts in the mid 1800s. He became known as the Merchant Prince of Salem due to the vast size of his business. Throughout his lifetime, he amassed nearly a million acres of land throughout the northeast.
Today, his descendants own roughly 830,000 acres of land passed on from generation to generation. The land is primarily located in Maine and held through Pingree's company, Seven Islands Land Co.
12. Wilks Brothers – 705,475 Acres
The Wilks Brothers, Farris and Dan, became billionaires after selling their hydraulic fracking company, Frac Tech, in 2011. They made $3.5 billion in exchange for their 70% interest in the company.
Since, the brothers have been acquiring land primarily in Montana and Idaho. However, they also own land in Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas where they actually reside.
13. Briscoe Family – 640,000 Acres
Former Texas governor, Dolph Briscoe Jr., was once ranked as the largest landowner in Texas. He inherited much of the land from his father, Dolph Sr. Since the passing of Dolph Jr., the legacy lives on with his children: Dolph III, Janey, and Cele.
Their family operations are headquartered on Catarina Ranch, which is approximately 100,000 acres and located in Texas. The Catarina ranch is actually the second largest ranch in Texas, behind the King Ranch.
Largest Private Land Owners: Final Thoughts
The United States has roughly 2.4 billion acres of total land mass. Together, these 13 largest private land owners have a combined 16.9 million acres!
While each of them own significant portions of land, their stories are all unique.
To learn more about land investments, be sure to check out our complete farmland investing guide.