While corporations can always offer more stock and the government 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 a lot of this asset. The Land Report publishes an annual ranking of the biggest private landowners in the U.S. as measured by total acreage. According to their most recent list, each of the 10 individuals and families that own themes and hold over a half-million acres each. Many of the biggest landowners are families with deep roots, holding vast swathes of ranch or timberland across the country for decades. Some are more recent entries, with successful business people in industries like telecommunications or fast food investing their wealth in the world’s oldest asset. Below are the 10 biggest private landowners in the US as of 2021, according to The Land Report:
10. Heirs to the King Ranch own 911,215 acres in Texas: That is more land than the state of Rhode Island. The King Ranch was started in the mid-19th century by Richard King, a young indentured jeweler who ran away and started a steamboat company in south Texas, according to the Ranch’s website. Over the course of over 160 years, King Ranch led some of the first cattle drives, developed the Santa Gertrudis and Santa Cruz breeds of cattle, bred Quarter Horses, and produced Champion Thoroughbreds. It is a major agribusiness today.
9. The Singleton family owns 1,110,000 acres in New Mexico and California: Number eight is the Singleton family, who owns 1.11 million acres of ranch land in New Mexico and California. The family descends from Henry Singleton, who co-founded the industrial conglomerate Teledyne in 1960 before acquiring his land.
8. Brad Kelley owns 1,139,984 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. Today, most of Kelley’s 1.2 million acres are located in Kentucky.
7. Peter Buck, co-founder of Subway, owns 1,236,000 acres of land: Besides co-founding Subway and being a nuclear physicist, Peter Buck also owns a huge amount of land. After Subway, Buck purchased 925,000 acres of timberland in Maine. In 2020, they acquired an additional 311,000 acres of timberland in Maine, taking him from 9th on the list to 7th. It’s worth noting, Buck is the owner of Tall Timbers Trust, one of the largest owners of timberland in Maine.
6. The Irving family owns 1,247,880 acres of land in the US, and even more in their native Canada: Lumber returns at number six with J.D. Irving, who founded the family-owned Irving Forest Products in 1882. Irving owns 1.25 million acres of land, employs more than 16,000 workers, and runs 11 sawmills throughout New Brunswick, Maine, and Nova Scotia. The company’s Dixfield sawmill, located in Western Maine, is the largest producer of Eastern White Pine boards for interior and exterior finish applications, according to the company. Dixfield produces 88 million board feet annually.
5. Stan Kroenke owns 1,380,000 acres, including ranch land in Wyoming: Stan Kroenke, owner of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams, is next, owning 1.38 million acres of ranch land in Wyoming. He owns several ranches – one of which is called the Q Creek Ranch with 560,000 acres open to paying guests for fishing and hunting.
4. The Reed family owns 1,729,232 acres of timberland across the northwest and south: The Reed family, who owns the forest products firm Green Diamond Resource Co., owns 1.73 million acres of timberland in the South and Northwest regions of the United States. Green Diamond owns land in eight U.S. states and prides itself on its strict forestry regulations.
3. Ted Turner, founder of CNN, owns 2,000,000 acres and the largest bison herd in the world: Keep in mind, this amount of land is twice as large as Rhode Island. The founder of CNN is the third biggest landowner in America. Ted Turner owns two million acres of land in the Great Plains. Some 50,000 bison, the largest herd in the world, roam his lands.
2. John Malone used his telecom fortune to acquire 2,200,000 acres of land: Keep in mind, this is roughly equal to half the size of Lake Ontario. Like the third-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.
1. The Emmerson family owns 2,330,000 acres of timberland: With the acquisition of Seneca Jones Timber, Sierra Pacific Industries becomes America’s largest private landowner with 2.33 million acres of timberland in California, Oregon, and Washington. Sierra Pacific is a third-generation, family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, California. After growing up in a broken home, Red started SPI with his father back in 1949, which consisted of running a leased mill in northern California that had been sitting idle. Now the firm owns and manages over two million acres of timberland in California and Washington, and is one of the largest lumber producers in the United States as they own 14 different sawmills across the country. The company also produces millwork, windows, and renewable energy. Despite being 89 years old, Red drives his pick up truck to work himself before 8am, 6 days a week.