- Land is probably the oldest asset in human history.
- According to The Land Report’s annual list of the top private landowners in the US, the 20 biggest individual and family landowners in the country own over a half-million acres each.
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While corporations can always offer more stock, and governments can always issue more bonds, there is one asset that has had a pretty fixed supply on earth for the last several million years: Land. And some Americans own quite a lot of that asset.
The Land Report publishes an annual ranking of the biggest private landowners in the US, as measured by total acreage. According to their most recent list, each of the 20 individuals and families that own the most land hold over a half-million acres each.
Many of the biggest landowners are families with deep, inter-generational roots, holding vast swathes of ranch or timberland across the country for decades. Some are more recent entries, with successful businesspeople in industries like telecommunications or fast food investing their wealth in the world’s oldest asset.
Here are the 20 biggest private landowners in the US as of 2018, according to The Land Report:
20. The Stimson family owns 552,000 acres of timberland in the western US.
The Stimson family has owned the Stimson Lumber Company for six generations, according to the company. The company owns over 500,000 acres of forest land in Oregon, Idaho, and Montana, and operates seven lumber mills in Oregon and Idaho.
19. The Martin family’s lumber company owns and manages 570,000 acres of forest.
The Martin family owns and operates the RoyOMartin lumber company, founded three generations ago in Louisiana. The company is a subsidiary of the family’s equity investment firm, Martin Sustainable Resources.
18. The Ford family owns 580,000 acres of timberland across the US.
The Ford family owns Roseburg Forest Products, a timber and wood company that holds forest land in Oregon, Virginia, and North Carolina. The company also operates several wood-products factories and plants across North America.
17. Thomas Peterffy owns 581,000 acres of land, much of it in Florida.
Thomas Peterffy is a Hungarian-born businessman who founded the stock broker firm Interactive Brokers and developed one of the first computerised stock-trading platforms.
In 2015, Peterffy purchased a massive plot of timberland in Florida from Foley Timber & Land, forming the basis for his land holdings.
16. The O’Connor heirs own 587,800 acres of Texas ranch land.
Thomas O’Connor was a late 19th-century rancher in Texas. According to the Land Report, his descendants continue to maintain a large ranch southeast of San Antonio.
15. The Hamer family owns 600,000 acres of land, and has been in the lumber industry for generations.
The Hamer family has been involved in the lumber industry in West Virginia for five generations, going back to the early 20th century.
14. The Lykes heirs own 615,000 acres of ranching and other agricultural land in the southern US.
The heirs of Dr. Howell Tyson Lykes, a late 19th century medical doctor who turned to cattle ranching in Florida, own several large ranching and other agricultural properties in Florida and Texas.
Lykes also founded the Lykes Brothers Steamship Company, a shipping concern that started out sending cattle to Cuba before expanding to broader freight operations.
13. The Briscoe heirs own 640,000 acres, mostly inherited from former Texas governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr.
Dolph Briscoe, Jr. was the governor of Texas from 1973 to 1979. According to The Land Report, Briscoe was the largest landowner in Texas, and his heirs continue to own and operate the Catarina Ranch in south Texas, along with several other ranching properties.
12. The Wilks brothers used their oil fortune to amass 702,367 acres of land.
Dan and Farris Wilks made a fortune in the oil industry, founding and later selling their shares in Texas-based oil services company Frac Tech. Between the late 2000s and early 2010s, the brothers began buying large amounts of land in Idaho and Montana, according to The Dallas Morning News.
11. The Pingree heirs own 830,000 acres, the legacy of a 19th-century merchant prince.
Nineteenth century Massachusetts merchant David Pingree amassed an enormous fortune, including over a million acres of land across the eastern US, according to The Land Report. Today, his fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-generation descendants continue to own and maintain large holdings, mostly in Maine.
10. The King Ranch heirs own 911,215 of Texas ranch land.
The King Ranch was started in the mid-19th century by Richard King, a young indentured jeweller who ran away and started a steamboat company in south Texas, according to the Ranch’s website.
King went on to begin purchasing land in south Texas, founding the ranch.
9. Peter Buck, co-founder of Subway, owns 925,000 acres of land, mostly in Maine.
Peter Buck made his fortune as the co-founder of the Subway sandwich chain, according to The Land Report. He went on to acquire large amounts of timberland in Maine.
8. The Singleton family owns 1,110,000 acres in New Mexico and California.
Henry Singleton cofounded the industrial conglomerate Teledyne in 1960, and begin acquiring ranch land in New Mexico and California starting in 1986 and continuing through his death in 1999. His children continue to operate the ranches, according to the Singleton Ranches website.
7. Brad Kelley owns 1,150,000 acres, including a legendary horse-racing farm.
In 2012, businessman Brad Kelley purchased the fabled Calumet Farm in Kentucky, home to many of the 20th century’s most storied racehorses. Kelley owns over a million acres of ranch land across the US.
6. The Irving family owns 1,247,880 acres of land in the US, and even more in their native Canada.
Family patriarch J. D. Irving founded a lumber business in 1882, and his descendants have become some of the largest landowners in Canada and the US since that time.
5. Stan Kroenke owns 1,380,000 acres, including ranch land in Wyoming.
Businessman and sports mogul Stan Kroenke owns the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, along with investments in several other major teams. He owns several large ranches, including the 560,000 acre Q Creek Ranch in Wyoming.
4. The Reed family owns 1,729,232 acres of timberland across the northwest and south.
The Reed family has owned the Green Diamond Resources Company for five generations. The forest products company owns land across eight US states, according to the company website.
3. The Emmerson family owns 1,956,100 acres of timberland.
The Emmerson family owns the forest products company Sierra Pacific Industries. According to The Land Report, the family and company have been closely involved in efforts to protect California’s forest lands and mitigate damage from recent wildfires.
2. Ted Turner, founder of CNN, owns 2,000,000 acres and the largest bison herd in the world.
Ted Turner made his fortune through his cable television empire, including TBS and CNN. According to The Land Report, Turner owns the largest private herd of bison in the world, with over 50,000 animals across his properties.
1. John Malone used his telecom fortune to acquire 2,200,000 acres of land.
Like the second-biggest landowner in the country, John Malone made his fortune in telecommunications and media, and was CEO of cable provider Tele-Communications, Inc. According to The Land Report, Malone works to maintain historical structures and traditions on his properties.
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