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Rich in a land grab: Top landowners boost holdings

Ted Turner
Getty Images
Ted Turner

As the wealthy get wealthier, they're putting more of it into land.

America's 100 largest individual landowners added 700,000 acres to their landholdings last year, according to the Land Report 100, put out by the Land Report and Fay Ranches. Those 100 individuals or families now control more than 30 million acres, or 2 percent of America's entire land mass.

Ranches and farmland have become a popular investment for the wealthy, who are looking for more stable and tangible stores of wealth. Many of the largest landowners also generate income from their land, from sustainable timber and agriculture.

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"Significant properties are a finite commodity and have repeatedly shown over time to be resistant to our most challenging economic times," said Greg Fay of Fay Ranches, the ranch brokerage firm.

John Malone
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John Malone

Topping the list again this year is John Malone, with 2.2 million acres. The cable titan added to his landholdings this year, with the purchase of two properties in the posh horse country of Wellington, Fla., totaling more than 120 acres.

Ted Turner ranked second again with 2 million acres—making Malone and Turner the Gates/Buffett of landholdings.

Most of the top landholders are families that either own or owned timber companies, like the Emmerson family and Irving family.

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But the big changes in the list were further down the ranks, with Stan Kroenke—the real estate and sports magnate— vaulting from No. 10 to 8. He purchased the Broken O Ranch last November, giving him an additional 125,000 acres and bringing his total to 848,571 acres.

Some other big landowners include Jeff Bezos, with 290,000 acres, the Koch family with 239,000 acres and hedge fund titan Louis Moore Bacon, with 215,990 acres.

Here is the full list of the top 10:

1. John Malone, 2.2 million acres
2. Ted Turner, 2 million acres
3. The Emmerson family, 1.86 million acres
4. Brad Kelley , 1.5 million acres
5. The Irving Family 1.25 million acres
6. The Singleton Family, 1.1 million acres
7. The heirs of King Ranch, 911,000 acres
8. Stan Kroenke, 848,571 acres
9. The heirs of Pingree lumber and wood-products company, 830,000 acres
10. The Reed family, 730,000 acres

By CNBC's Robert Frank. Follow him on Twitter: @robtfrank.

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