All Posts November 25, 2019

The Daily
PUBLISHED: November 25, 2019

The fifty private land owners who own the most land in the US, including Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and CNN founder Ted Turner, have been revealed in a new investigation.

A study found that 31 million acres, or 1.4 per cent of the country’s total land mass, is under the control of the private owners, who are noticeably wealthy, white and older.

And the land, while private, is still use for commercial purposes, the 24/7 Wall Street investigation found.

The vast swaths of property are used for farming, ranching, logging and renewable energy production.

The US in total has 2.4 billion acres, and is the third largest country in the world after Canada and Russia, the latter being the largest and covering 11.5 per cent of the planet.

And while more than a quarter of all land in the states is owned by the federal government, it turns out that only a fraction of the nation’s population of more than 327 million control the most private land, the investigation found.

Estimates were based on information from published reports, online databases, tax records and information provided by various land owners. They also are based on only rural land holdings.

The majority of the land controlled by the private owners is West of the Mississippi River, with exceptions in Maine and Florida.

Many of the owners are ranchers, heirs to the properties or companies founded decades ago that purchased the land.

The 50th largest land owners are the Hadley family, heirs to the Anheuser-Busch beer empire, who own 260,000 acres in New Mexico. The parcel is roughly the size of Hong Kong.

And it only gets bigger from there for several wealthy families.

The Lee family comes in at No. 46 with about 275,000 acres in New Mexico. The family, thanks to the property which amounts to roughly twice the size of Chicago, was able to enrich themselves off uranium and coal discovered on the land, located in the western half of the state.

Then there’s the Killiams at No. 44, with 277,000 acres of ranches that fuel the family’s cattle and oil interests.

The Bass family, at No. 40 and owning 285,000 acres equaling one-tenth the size of Connecticut, has made its fortunes from oil and cattle ranching on the land. The riches helped Ed Bass build the new $540 million Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, and funded the purchase of San Jose Island off the state’s Gulf Coast area.

And then there are the individuals, including Shannon Kizer, who owns 302,000 acres in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. Kizer’s farming and ranching operations produce peanuts, corn, wheat, dairy and cattle.

There is also Anne Marion who owns 275,000 acres in Texas, including the famous 6666, or “Four Sixes” cattle ranch in the Southern Panhandle, which is close to 150 years old.

But while neither landowner’s name may be a household name, the names of others are. Take Jeff Bezos, for example.

The online retailing billionaire who founded Amazon and is among the wealthiest people in the world owns 420,000 acres, which is about three times the size of Guam. Much of the land is in Texas.

Then there’s Subway sandwich shop franchise founder Peter Buck, who at No. 9, owns more than twice as much as Bezos. Buck, who as owner of Tall Timber Trust, one of the largest owners of timberland in Maine, controls 925,00 acres.

Los Angeles Rams owner Stan Kroenke has even more land, coming in at No. 5 with 1.4 million acres, including a 124,000 acre ranch in Montana, and additional land in Wyoming.

His marriage to Ann Walkton Kroenke, an heir to the Wal-Mart fortune, likely adds to his good fortune.

CNN founder Ted Turner is the second biggest land owner, with 2 million acres of land in New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska and Georgia.

Much of the land is used for grazing by 50,000 head of buffalo, the largest herd of bison in the world.

And at No. 1 is John Malone, who can boast being the largest landowner in the US with 2.2 million acres. That’s about half the size of Lake Ontario. The former media tycoon made his wealth building the company Tele-Communications Inc., or TCI, which he sold to AT&T for $50 billion 20 years ago.

His land is mostly in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming, and includes profitable cattle farms.

Property owners who control the most land in the United States

50. Hadley family: 260,000 acres including the huge Diamond A Ranch, which takes up a good part of New Mexico’s southwestern tip. Family members are heirs to the Anheuser-Busch beer empire,

49. Lyda family: 260,035 acres, including La Escalera ranch in far West Texas. Family members are mostly cattle ranchers.

48. Galt family: 262,000 acres in Montana, including the Martinsdale Ranch. Family members are mostly cattle ranchers. Errol Galt is the former Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Game commissioner.

47. Anne Marion: 275,000 acres in Texas, including the famous 6666, or “Four Sixes” cattle ranch in the Southern Panhandle, which is close to 150 years old.

46. Lee family: 275,000 acres in New Mexico. Family members are mostly sheep and cattle ranchers who owe some of their wealth to the discovery of uranium and coal on their property.

45. Babbitt heirs: 275,000 acres in Arizona. Family members are long-time cattle ranchers.

44. Killam family: 277,000 acres, mostly ranches in Texas and Oregon and oil operations in Louisiana, Nebraska, Kansas, Arkansas, and Texas.

43. Kokernot heirs: 278,000 acres in Texas. The Kokernot family’s 06 Ranch brand has been registered in the state since 1837. Both the Family’s 06 Ranch and Leoncita Cattle Company Ranch are in West Texas.

42. Fasken family: 279,128 acres in Texas. David Fasken, a Canadian, bought a ranch in West Texas in 1913 and the discovery of oil on the property led to the ceation of the Fasken Oil & Ranch, a major oil drilling.

41. Collier family: 280,000 acres, primarily in Collier County, Florida. Baron Collier, an advertising executive who developed land and infrastructure in southern Florida, had been largest landholder in the state at the time of his death.

40. Bass family: 285,000 acres in Texas. Family members used the land to enrich themselves from oil and cattle ranching.

39. Barta family: 286,000 acres in Nebraska. The Barta family, which owes its wealth to its prescription services company, Sav-Rx, now owns one of the largest cattle ranching operations in the state.

38. Llano Partners: 295,000 acres in New Mexico, Texas and Florida. Family members are ranch operators.

37. Mike Smith: 295,980 acres in Texas. His properties include the 11,830 Broseco Ranch, which contains two lakes that are 100 acres in size.

36. Robinson & Freed families: 300,000 acres in Utah. Member of both families operate six cattle ranches.

35. Shannon Kizer: 302,000 acres in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Kizer has farming and ranching operations that produce peanuts, corn, wheat, dairy, and cattle.

34. Collins family: 311,395 acres in Northern California and western Pennsylvania. Family members run a long-time lumber business.

33. Stefan Soloviev: 325,077 acres in New Mexico, Kansas and Texas. Soloviev uses the land to grow crops like wheat, corn, and sorghum.

32. Malone Mitchell 3rd: 336,000 acres in Texas. Malone Mitchell runs Longfellow Ranches, a 500 square mile hunting preserve.

31. Zane & Tanya Kiehne: 345,000 acres in New Mexico and Texas. The couple are ranch operators.

30. Hughes family: 390,000 acres in Texas. The family is in the oil business.

29. Holding family: 395,030 acres in Montana. Family members come from the Sinclair Oil empire.

28. Jeff Bezos: 420,000 acres in Texas. Bezos is cofounder of Amazon.

27. Philip Anschutz: 434,500 acres in Wyoming and Colorado. Plans for his land in Wyoming include building billed as one of the largest in the world.

26. Fisher family: 440,000 acres in California. The property is manly timberland. Owners Donald and Doris Fisher co-founded the clothing brand Gap.

25. Simplot family: 443,091 acres in Idaho. Family members are farmers and descendants of Jack Simplot, who first supplied McDonald’s with french fries.

24. McDonald family: 474,000 acres in Alabama, Florida, and Oklahoma – but the majority of the family’s land holdings are in Maine. They use their land for timber, sand and gravel, and oil extraction

23. D.R. Horton: 503,000 acres in New Mexico and Texas, where he hosts a children’s summer camp. He operates a ranch and children’s summer camp.

22. Westervelt heirs: 518,000 acres in Alabama, Mississippi, and Virginia. Family members run renewable energy, lumber and wildlife services.

21. Holland Ware: 534,900 acres in Florida and Georgia. Most of Ware’s holdings are controlled by the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation, which helps several causes, including animal welfare.

20. Stimson family: 552,000 acres in Montana and Oregon. The family is in the lumber business.

19. Martin family: 570,000 acres in Louisiana. Family members have run a long-time lumber business.

18. Ford family: 580,000 acres in Oregon. Family members have had a long-time timber business.

17. Thomas Peterffy: 581,000 acres in Florida. Peterffy, a refugee from Hungary, made his fortunes as an investor.

16. O’Connor heirs: 587,800 acres in Texas. Family members have oil interests.

15. Hamer family: 600,000 acres in West Virginia. The family harvests hardwood timber from the land.

14. Lykes heirs: 615,000 acres in Texas. The family raises cattle and grows citrus.

13. Briscoe heirs: 640,000 acres in Texas. The combined landholdings belonged to former Texas governor, the late Dolph Briscoe Jr.

12. Wilks Brothers: 702,367 acres in Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas. Brothers Farris and Dan Wilks started off with Frac Tech, a natural gas extraction company in 2002, and sold it for $3.5 billion in 2011. Since then, they have been acquiring land.

11. Pingree heirs: 830,000 acres in Maine. Family members maintain a long-time lumber company.

10. King Ranch heirs: 911,215 acres in Texas. The property is the largest ranch in the state, by Captain Richard King in 1853 and subsequently passed down through generations.

9. Peter Buck: 925,000 acres in Maine.

8. Singleton family: 1.1 million acres in New Mexico and California. Family members operate ranches.

7. Brad Kelley: 1.2 million acres in Kentucky. Kelley’s investment group owns and runs the 762-acre Calumet Farm, which produces Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winners.

6. Irving family: 1.2 million acres in Maine. Family members run lumber, newspapers, and petrochemicals businesses.

5. Stan Kroenke: 1.4 million acres in Montana and Wyoming. The real estate mogul is also owner of the Los Angeles Rams and married to Ann Walkton Kroenke, an heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune.

4. Reed family: 1.7 million acres Washington, Oregon, and California. Family members own a long-time logging firm, Green Diamond Resource Co.

3. Emmerson family: 2.0 million acres in California and Washington. Family members run Sierra Pacific Industries, a log business that relies on lumber from forest fires and sells it to lumber retailers.

2. Ted Turner: 2.0 million acres in New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Georgia. Turner’s land is used by more than 50,000 head of buffalo for grazing – the largest private herd of bison in the world.

1. John Malone: 2.2 million acres in Maine, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Malone, the largest private landowner in the United States and who made his fortune in the telecom business, runs profitable cattle ranches.