The amazing life of billionaire 'Cable Cowboy' John Malone, the single largest landowner in the US

John C. Malone. Picture: Getty Images

You may not know his name, but chances are you’ve used a service or watched a channel with connections to John C. Malone.

The largest individual landowner in the US, Malone is the chairman of Liberty Media and has interests as wide ranging as race cars, the Discovery Channel, and the Atlanta Braves.

Here’s a taste of his diverse interests:

  • He is largest stakeholder of Liberty Media, which is worth $US24 billion.
  • He owns 28% of Discovery Communications, which just sealed a $US14.6 billion deal for Scripps.
  • He owns a quarter of Liberty Global, the largest international cable company with 29 million subscribers.
  • He owns 8% of the publicly traded Atlanta Braves.
  • He owns 2.2 million acres of land, making him the single largest landowner in the US.

But the media mogul wasn’t just born into his $US9.22 billion net worth. Here’s how one of the richest and most powerful people in American business rose to prominence.

John C. Malone was born to parents of Irish descent on March 7, 1941, in Milford Connecticut, a suburb about two hours north of New York City.

Wikimedia Commons

He attended the prestigious Hopkins School in neighbouring New Haven, graduating with a National Merit Scholarship in 1969.

The school, founded in 1660, is one of the oldest and most prestigious in the country. But Malone didn't always feel that he fit in.

'I was neither a preppy nor a town kid,' Malone said in 1994. 'So I put a lot of energy into athletics.' He got letters in fencing, track, and soccer. 'It was raw drive, not skill,' he says.

He has since donated $US25 million to fund school's science center, which bears his name.

After high school, Malone stayed in New Haven and attended Yale University. He graduated in 1963 with a degree in electrical engineering and economics.

Yale Law School/Facebook

He has since donated $US50 million to the university's engineering school, where some professorships bear his name.

Sticking with the Hopkins name (but no relation), Malone headed to Baltimore to study industrial management at Johns Hopkins University, receiving a master's in 1964.

In 2011, Malone made the largest donation to the university. His $US30 million donation has funded construction of a new, 56,000-square-foot research building for the Whiting School of Engineering.

Malone's introduction to the telecoms industry came as a student in the electrical-engineering program at New York University and Bell Labs.

Tim Boyle/Getty Images

Now owned by Lucid Technologies, Bell Labs is named for the telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell. The lab is credited with developing many telecom innovations, including the laser beam, the programming language C, early calculators, and radio transmission.

Malone returned to Johns Hopkins in 1967 to do a doctorate in operations research.

Ph.D. in hand, Malone joined the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Co. in New York.

In his three years consulting for large companies such as General Electric and IBM, Malone quickly learned of Wall Street's disdain for cable companies.

At Jerrold, Malone met Bob J. Magness, who in 1973 offered him the job of CEO of his almost bankrupt cable company, Tele-Communications Inc.

Getty Images

So Malone and his wife, Barbara, headed west to Colorado to try to save the company, which had only 400,000 subscribers and $US12 million in annual sales. Worse, the company owed creditors $US132 million. Malone wasted no time getting to work.

Over the years, Liberty Media's holdings have almost always beat the market average. With two-thirds of the shares, Malone's wealth has skyrocketed. He's ranked 151st on Bloomberg's billionaires index.

Malone's net worth over the past four years.

Inspired by a summer spent on a family farm in Pennsylvania, Malone decided put his money in land.

Bell Ranch in Colorado was one of the first purchases made by Malone on his path to becoming the largest individual landowner in the US. He also owns land in New Mexico, Wyoming, Florida, Maine, New Hampshire, Maryland

He owns millions of acres of woodlands near Boothbay, New Hampshire, where he keeps his sailing yachts.

Many locals, however, were worried about how Malone might use the land, given his conservative tendencies. Malone sits on the board of the libertarian Cato Institute and has donated large sums to Republican political campaigns.

All these deals -- and his 2.2 million acres of land -- have earned Malone the nickname 'Cable Cowboy.'

Variety, Wiley

His prize-winning race horses almost certainly contributed to the nickname as well.

Bridlewood Farms

Malone purchased 800-acre Bridlewood Farms in Florida for $US14 million in 2013. Tapwrit, owned by Malone, won the 2017 Belmont Stakes.

When not running a massive media conglomerate, Malone enjoys the finer things in life, like his Florida beach house.

Malone purchased a seaside mansion in Florida built by the Playmobil founder Horst Brandstätter in 2015 for $US38 million. It even has a rotating living room.

Beyond land and houses, Malone has returned to his family's roots, buying up multiple high-profile hotels and castles in Ireland.

Malone acquired the 32,668-square-foot Humewood Castle -- located on 427 acres in County Wicklow in Ireland -- for $US11 million. He also owns hotels in Dublin.

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