Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Five Largest Landowners in the U.S. (Three you probably never heard of)

CNBC lists them as:
1. John Malone The cable tycoon has 2.2 million acres stretching from Wyoming to Maine. One of his crown jewels is the Bell Ranch, a 290,100-acre cattle empire.

2. Ted Turner The media magnate has 2 million acres in Nebraska, New Mexico and other states. He is a strong advocate of wildlife conservation.

3. The Emmerson family This low-profile family holds 1.8 million acres through Sierra Pacific Industries, the nation's second largest lumber producer.

4. Brad Kelley The reclusive billionaire, who drives a pick-up truck and made his money from discount cigarettes, owns about 1.5 million acres and uses much of it for cattle ranching.

5. The Irving family The Canadian forestry family behind J.D. Irving Inc. owns 1.2 million acres in Maine and other locations. This year alone, J.D. Irving will plant 30 million seedlings.
What's refreshing about this list is that it doesn't appear there's a crony capitalist among them. These are all just basic business people. Turner takes some flaky positions from time-to-time these days, but he made his money pretty straight in the cable television business. And you have to like this guy Brad Kelley, whom I have never heard of before, and who made his money selling discount cigarettes.  

Here's Wikipedia on Kelley:
Much of Kelley's early business was a response to changes in Kentucky's tobacco industry. Because of declining production, many old warehouses stood vacant in the 1980s. He started buying warehouses, converting them to other uses, and then leasing them out. During one conversion, he found some old cigarette-making machines that still worked. This gave him an opportunity to make consumer products, a business he had always wanted to enter. In 1991, he founded Commonwealth Brands, a tobacco company that manufactured discounted cigarettes, headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky. In 2001, he sold it to Houchens Industries for $1 billion.
Got that? He made a billion dollars in just 10 years. Selling cigarettes! Why didn't you think of that?

Here's more from Wikipedia:
He also owns 1.25 million acres of ranching land across southwestern Texas, Florida, and parts of New Mexico, where he conserves black rhinos, white rhinos, pygmy hippos, okapi, anoas, impalas, white-bearded wildebeests, Nile lechwe, Eastern bongos and East African oryxes. Kelley also owns about 60 properties in his childhood home of Simpson County. As of 2012, he is the fourth-largest private land owner in the United States.

He lives in the Nashville, Tennessee suburb of Franklin. He is married with three children. He is hardly ever photographed and does not have an e-mail address


  1. Hey, Kelley. You know that Commonwealth Brands company you had? You didn't build that! Somebody else made that happen!

  2. I have always wanted to open a business, but I do not know what and how to start.. it's been frustrating

  3. This is an interesting list. Did they exclude corporations and churches? For example, the LDS Church owns way more than these people. I did a quick search and found over 1,070,000 acres scattered all over the country. (I know that's not as much as what's noted in this article, but I'm fairly certain I didn't catch everything)

  4. What about government?

  5. Nothing against Ted Turner the businessman, but on the flip-side he's another one of those population control freaks.

  6. Should clarify that these are individual land owners. The US Government, and probably many large corporations, own more land than most of these people.