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The 15 Largest Land Owners in the United States in 2023

The Richest Land Owners in the United States

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Land is a finite resource which is used for commercial, residential, and conservation purposes across all 1.9 billion acres of the United States.

The U.S. government owns much of this land through a number of agencies. While most Americans hope to own their own parcel for a home or business, there are private land owners who own large masses of land across the country.

These wealthy land owners have unique stories and backgrounds leading them to be able to own swathes of land and this article will detail who they are, how much land they own, and a snapshot of how they came into this ownership.

These are the 15 largest land owners in the United States, as of 2021, according to the Land Report.

1. Emmerson family – 2,330,000

Archie Aldis “Red” Emmerson and his wife Nancy are among the richest people in America. Together, they control over 2 million acres of land. This includes everything from timberlands to cattle ranches. Their privately held company, Sierra Pacific Industries, owns 14 sawmills scattered across the United States.

The couple jointly hold the record for owning the most land in California. In fact, they own over 7,000 square miles of land in San Francisco alone.

In addition to their real estate holdings, the couple also own a number of businesses. These include a construction company, a restaurant chain, and even a winery.

They also manage a $1 billion investment portfolio. However, it’s their timberland investments that make the biggest impact.

Emmerson’s family owns about 15% of the nation’s total forested lands.

The majority of those forests lie in California.

2. John Malone – 2,200,000 acres

John Malone has been one of America’s most successful investors since starting out in the 1970s. In fact, he’s become one of the richest men in the world thanks to his investments in cable TV networks like TCI, Discovery Communications, and Viacom. But it wasn’t always easy sailing for him. Before becoming a billionaire, he had to struggle to make ends meet.

In 1973, Malone moved to Philadelphia to work for the phone company Bell Atlantic. While there, he worked odd jobs, including selling shoes and working at a gas station. Eventually, he became the manager of the store, but he didn’t earn much money.

After getting laid off in 1979, Malone took a job at a local radio station. There, he met another employee named David Fielding, who later went on to found Infinity Broadcasting. Together, they formed a partnership that eventually led to the creation of TCI Cablevision.

By 1985, Malone had left Bell Atlantic and joined TCI as CEO. By 1990, he sold his shares in the company and bought some property in Georgia. Over the next few years, he purchased thousands of acres of land in rural areas across the state. Today, he owns about 2,200,000 acres.

3. Reed family – 2,100,000 acres

The Reeds are one of America’s most powerful families. They own the fourth-largest privately held forested area in the nation, according to Forbes. Their holdings include over 1 million acres of timberlands in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and British Columbia. And it wasn’t just any old timberland either; it was a 600,000 acre tract in central Oregon that had been owned by the Simpson family since 1896.

In 2014, the Reeds purchased the property for $1.9 billion. They paid $1.5 billion for the land, while putting down $400 million in cash. Forbes estimates the family owns about half of the land in the state of Oregon.

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4. Ted Turner – 2,000,000 acres

Ted Turner founded Cable News Network (CNN). He also owns 2 million acres of mostly ranch land in four states. His holdings include approximately 50,000 buffalo, the largest private bison population in the world.

Turner’s wealth stems from his family’s oil fortune. In addition to owning land, he runs the Central Plains Resource Council, a nonprofit organization dedicated to environmental conservation.

5. Stan Kroenke – 1,627,500 acres

Stan Kroeinek is a real estate mogul who owns the Los Angeles Rams. He owns 1.4 million acre of land in the United Sates, including a large 100,000 plus-acre ranch in Montana. He is married to Ann Walton, an heiress of the Wal-Mart fortune.

Kroenke has been involved in real estate since his father bought him a small piece of property in Colorado in 1962. By 1972, he had purchased over 200 properties in the state. In 1988, he founded American Land Company, a holding company that owned many commercial buildings across the nation.

In 2009, Kroenke acquired the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball franchise for $2 billion. At the time, it was the most expensive sports franchise purchase ever.

The following year, Kroenke purchased the Washington Redskins football franchise for $800 million. This transaction marked the third largest sports franchise sale in history.

Since then, Kroenke has invested heavily in real estate. Kroenke owns approximately 1.6 million acres worth over $1 billion.

6. Irving family – 1,267,792 acres

The Irving family owns over 1,250,000 acres of land. They own the world’s most expensive golf course, Pebble Beach Golf Links; one of America’s best ski resorts, Whistler Blackcomb; and the world’s largest vineyard, Chateau Mouton Rothschild.

In addition to the 1.24 million acres the family owns in Maine, the Irviners also own about 2 million acre in Canada. Together, the seven properties make up roughly 10% of the total landmass of the United States.

7. Peter Buck – 1,236,000 acres

Peter Buck founded Subway restaurants and now owns Tall Timbers Timberlands, one of the largest landowners in Maine.

According to Forbes, Buck owns roughly 1.2 million acres of land throughout the state. This includes about 4,500 acres in Maine’s North Woods region, where he has been logging since the 1980s. In addition, Buck’s family owns another 2,600 acres of land in the same region.

In total, Buck owns enough land to make him one of the richest people in Maine. His net worth is $1 billion, according to Forbes.

8. Brad Kelley – 1,139,984 acres

Brad Kelley grew up in rural Indiana where he learned about horses from his father. He later attended Purdue University and worked in finance before becoming a full-time investor. In 2012, Kelley bought Calumet Farm, one of the largest thoroughbred farms in the United States. He now owns over 1.2 million acres across both states, making him one of the biggest landowners in America.

9. Singleton family – 1,100,000 acres

The Singletons are a wealthy family from Texas with a net worth of $2 billion. Their holdings include over 200,000 acres of land spread across six states. The family’s largest ranch is located in New Mexico, where it covers roughly 110,000 acres.

10. King Ranch heirs – 911,215 acres

The King Ranch heirs own rangeland in south Texas that spreads across 911,215 acres, roughly three times the size of Los Angles.

In addition to being one of the largest privately held ranches in America, it’s also been home to some of the most influential figures in American history. In fact, the King Ranch has given birth to many of the nation’s wealthiest families.

11. Pingree heirs – 830,000 acres

David Pingree, also known as “the Merchant Prince of Salem,” grew his land holdings to over 1 million acres in the late 19th century. His descendants own over 800,000 acres, mostly in Maine through the Seven Islands Company, a timber company.

Pingree’s great-grandson David M. Pingree Jr., now owns about one third of the land, according to the Portland Press Herald.

The story goes like this: In 1857, David Pingree Sr. bought 7,500 acres near the town of Brunswick, Maine, for $15,000. Over the next three decades, he added another 5,000 acres, bringing the total acreage up to 12,500. Then, in 1876, he sold off most of those acres, including 2,000 acres in Falmouth, Maine, for $1.5 million.

But the real estate boom didn’t stop there. In 1880, he purchased another 20,000 acres in Maine — and again, in 1890, another 10,000 acres. And in 1900, he bought 15,000 acres in New Hampshire.

In 1906, the Portland Press Herald reported that he had acquired 30,000 acres in Maine, making him the largest landowner in the state. When he died in 1917, he owned nearly 800,000 acres across four states.

Today, Pingree’ s heirs own about 830,000 acres, mostly in ME through Seven Islands Land Company. A large portion of that land is in Maine.

12. Briscoe family – 686,000 acres

The heirs of former Texas Governor Dolph Briscoe, Jr. are among the richest people in America. They control over $1 billion worth of real estate.

The Briscoe family’s properties include the 100, 000 acre Catarina Ranch in Texas. This property includes the largest contiguous ranch in the United States.

They also hold interests in several oil companies including Exxon Mobil, Chevron, Phillips 66, Valero Energy, Apache Corporation, Occidental Petroleum, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil.

In addition, the family owns the Houston Astros baseball team, the Houston Rockets basketball franchise, and the Houston Texans football club.

13. Wilks brothers – 675,000 acres

The Wilks Brothers are one of the biggest landowners in the United States. They are also among the richest men in America. The brothers are worth about $4.9 billion each according to Forbes, making them the 12th wealthiest family in the world. Their net worth grew rapidly during the oil boom in the 1980s and 1990s, and since then, the brothers have diversified into energy exploration and investment companies.

In addition to owning ranches in several states, the Wilks brothers have acquired large tracts of land in North Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Utah, Montana, Idaho and Texas. In fact, the brothers own nearly 705,000 acres of land in total. This makes them the second largest landowners in Montana and Idaho, behind only Bill Gates.

14. Lykes family – 615,000 acres

The Lykes family owns one of America’s largest ranches — a sprawling property in South Texas that spans over 600,000 acres.

The land is home to cattle, sugar cane, and citrus groves. And it’s owned by a group of people who call themselves the Lykes Family Trust.

In fact, the trust is comprised of four generations of the same family: Howell T. Lykes, his wife Marjorie, and their three children, John, Mary, and Robert.

The family is worth $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine.

They inherited the land from their father, Howell T., who died in 1982.

Today, the Lykes heirs live primarily in Houston, where they run a real estate firm called Lykes Brothers Commercial Real Estate.

But they still maintain a large presence in San Antonio, Texas, where they own a 300,000-acre ranch and operate several businesses including a retail store called M&M Ranch Market.

15. Ford family – 600,000 acres

The descendants of the late Kenneth E. Ford own 580,000 mostly forested acres in Oregon. His son Robert A. Ford owns 10 million acres in California, Texas, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah. Robert died in 2013 and his estate was split among three family members.

Robert’s brother Charles R. Ford Jr., known as Chuck, inherited $1 billion. He lives in Southern California and runs a real estate development firm.

A third brother, William J. Ford, is a retired physician living in San Diego County.