While corporations can always offer more stock and 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 it. 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 the most land 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 U.S. as of 2019, according to The Land Report:
10. Heirs to the King Ranch own 825,000 acres of South Texas land, an area larger 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. The family descends from Henry Singleton, who co-founded the industrial conglomerate Teledyne in 1960 and began buying land in the mid-1980s. Now his heirs run the massive Singleton Ranches, headquartered in Santa Fe, one of the nation’s biggest cattle and horse-breeding operations.
8. Brad Kelley owns 1,140,000 (down -10,016) acres in Kentucky, 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 U.S. Earlier this year, Kelley listed a series of West Texas ranches with roughly 500,000 acres, as well as a New Mexico ranch with more than 50,000 contiguous deeded acres.
7. Peter Buck, co-founder of Subway, owns approximately 1,236,000 (up +311,000) in Maine. 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. Earlier this year, he added 311,000 acres from Birmingham’s McDonald family, elevating Buck from No. 9 to No. 7 on the list of top landholders.
6. The Irving family owns 1,247,880 acres of land in the U.S., 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 1,726,295 (down -2,937) acres of timberland across the northwest and south. The Reed family, who owns the forest products firm Green Diamond Resource Co., owns 1.726 million acres of timberland in the South and Northwest regions of the United States. Green Diamond owns land in eight U.S. states total 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. The founder of CNN is the second biggest individual landowner in America. Ted Turner owns 2 million acres of land in the Great Plains. Some 50,000 bison, the largest herd in the world, roam his lands.
2. The Emmerson family owns 2,077,932 (up +121,932) acres of timberland.Sierra Pacific is a third-generation, family-owned forest products company based in Anderson, California. The company is one of the largest privately owned U.S. forest products companies. It is also among the largest U.S. lumber manufacturers and wood window producers.
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.