Fri, October 08, 2010
Business > Industries

America's biggest landowners

2010-10-08 10:02:27 GMT2010-10-08 18:02:27 (Beijing Time)  Forbes

Hunt Ranch, a 15,548-acre ranch in Bridgeport, Wash., sold in its entirety for $5.5 million through J. P. King Auction Company. (Photo: Business Wire)

John Malone's acquisition of the massive Bell Ranch has vaulted him up the rankings, but he has a way to go to catch the top property barons.

It's been billed "The Sale of the Century," the largest sale of deeded land in the American West for 60 years: billionaire John Malone's purchase of the 453 square-mile Bell Ranch in New Mexico.

The cable-television magnate purchased the 290,100-acre ranch on Aug. 17 for an undisclosed price, according to The Land Report, which tracks big land sales. The selling Lane family initially listed the property 100 miles east of Santa Fe for $110 million, or $380 an acre, but dropped their price to $83 million by the time Malone scooped it up.

With that purchase Malone vaulted two slots to fifth place among the largest U.S. landowners, with 1.2 million acres, mostly in Colorado and New Mexico. He passed New Mexico's Singleton family and the heirs to the fabled King Ranch in Texas, although he's got a lot of buying to do before he approaches fellow media magnate Ted Turner, who owns more than 2 million acres scattered from Florida to Wyoming.

Another new entrant on the list is Stan Kroenke, husband of Forbes 400 member Anne Walton Kroenke and owner of pro basketball's Denver Nuggets, hockey's Colorado Avalanche, plus stakes in the St. Louis Rams and English soccer titan Arsenal. He's assembled 740,000 acres of ranchland in Montana and Wyoming. In addition to running 12,000 head of cattle, his Kroenke Ranches also have a top-flight fly-fishing lodge in Wyoming.

The majority of the other top landowners are strictly business. Longtime No. 2 land baron Archie (Red) Emmerson, a onetime sawmill operator who has amassed 1.9 million acres of timberland in California and Washington. Emmerson's family owned Sierra Pacific Industries is a $1 billion a year business, not a weekend indulgence.

The fourth-largest landowners, Canada's Irving family, also accumulated about a 20th of Maine's land area as a timber investment. The descendants of a Scottish immigrant who established a sawmill in New Brunswick in 1882, the Irving family now has interests in everything from tissue manufacturing to oil and gas. Forbes estimates the clan is worth at least $4 billion.

Post a CommentMalone's purchase of the Bell ranch marks the transfer of a storied parcel that Pablo Montoya obtained via land grant from the Mexican government in 1824. Once spreading across 1,000 square miles, the property was split into six pieces after the end of World War II. The Bell Ranch was re-assembled by William Lane II, the chairman of General Binding Corp., who bought a 130,000-acre parcel in 1970 and then assembled another 160,000 acres over the next six years.

The ranch's horse breeding operation, according to the Land Report, dates back to a herd used by the U.S. cavalry a century ago. It also has its own breed of cattle, known as RedBell, and the brand has been in continuous use since 1875.

The land ranges from 4,200 feet to 5,600 feet above sea level with rich grasslands and a temperate climate.

(Daniel Fisher,

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