The annual edition of the Land Report 100, listing the individuals and families who own the most real estate in the U.S., is out. The top 10 includes lumber legacies, ranchers and entrepreneurs who own sprawling parcels of forests, prairies and vineyards.
This year's list also features landowners who added significantly to their portfolios, like the Emmerson family at number three. Others that climbed up but did not crack the top 10 include the fraternal frackers, the Wilks brothers (up 152,500 acres) at No. 15, and at 17 the phosphate mining/farming/ranching Simplot Family (up 21,091 acres).
Who's the biggest of them all? Click ahead to find out.
—By Colleen Kane, special to CNBC.com
Posted 12 Nov. 2015
In 1841, when the state of Maine was only 21 years old, Massachusetts shipping magnate David Pingree began buying up land there. The man know as "the merchant prince of Salem" predicted it would have a more promising future than Salem's shipping trade. The one-term mayor of Salem started with buying Maine timberland and continued acquiring land across more than 100 townships in Maine and New Hampshire. Pingree's fifth-, sixth-, and seventh-generation descendants now own the land, which includes rivers, streams and more than 100 lakes, as well as deer wintering areas and wetlands. About 80 percent of the land is under conservation easement, managed by Seven Islands Land Company.
Entrepreneur Stan Kroenke owns the real estate development company Kroenke Group and Kroenke Sports Enterprises, encompassing England's footballers Arsenal, American soccer team Colorado Rapids, NFL's St. Louis Rams, NHL's Colorado Avalanche and the NBA's Denver Nuggets. He's married to Wal-Mart heiress Ann Walton Kroenke, who gained a hefty stake in Wal-Mart following the death of her father James "Bud" Walton in 1995. Stan developed many a Walmart shopping center location himself. In addition to numerous private residences, Kroenke owns ranches and California vineyards.
One of the world's largest ranches, King Ranch has four large divisions around Corpus Christi, Texas, covering parts of six counties in all. It was founded in 1853 by Capt. Richard King and Gideon K. Lewis, beginning with 15,500 acres, and is owned today by the seventh generation of King's descendants. King Ranch now deals in cattle and feedlot operations, farming, citrus, sugar cane, pecans, as well as recreational hunting and ecotourism. The ranch emphasizes environmental stewardship in its efforts to promote soil conservation, minimum-impact grazing, water conservation and limited use of pesticides.
Henry Earl Singleton was a businessman, cattle rancher, electrical engineer and co-founder of the early tech start-up Teledyne. He began acquiring land with his 1985 purchase of San Cristobal Ranch in New Mexico and followed that with 28 more ranches over the next 14 years until his death in 1999. Singleton's former Los Angeles mansion set a record this year when it sold for $59 million.
J.D. Irving began his family's empire in 1882 with a sawmill, a grist mill, a carding mill, a lumber business, a general store and farms. As the businesses expanded, the Irvings rose to prominence in their native New Brunswick, Canada, and have become one of Canada's wealthiest families.Today, the J.D. Irving Ltd conglomerate deals in forestry, paper products, agriculture, shipbuilding, food processing and more. The family's land, including two nature parks, isn't just in Canada — their timberlands across the border also make the Irvings the largest landowners in Maine.
Mark Edward Reed married into the family that formed the Seattle-based Simpson Logging Company in 1890. Today, the fifth generation of Reeds own forests through what's now called Simpson Investment Co., as well as the Green Diamond Resource Co., which follows local sustainability standards in Washington state and California for its forestry practices. Less than 2 percent of the Green Diamond lands are harvested per year, then replanted.
The media-shy Kentucky businessman Brad Kelley is the founder of Commonwealth Brands tobacco company, which he sold in 2001. He is now owner of Calumet Farm, as well as NC2, publisher of Lonely Planet guides, and is active in conservation. The Calumet Farm purchase was significant for this Kentucky native. Established in 1924, it produced many Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown winners, but by 1992, it was in bankruptcy. Kelley made a deal for the farm in 2012 and returned it to its glory when his runner, Oxbow, won the Preakness Stakes the following year.
R.H. "Curly" Emmerson and his son, A.A. "Red" Emmerson, established Sierra Pacific Industries in 1949 in Anderson, California. It remains family-owned today as one of the country's largest lumber producers. The harvesting practices are compliant with the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. This year, the company acquired 54,000 western Washington acres from Murray Pacific Corp.
Atlanta's former cable TV mogul and philanthropist owns the largest private herd of bison (more than 51,000 heads), whose meat he serves at his environmentally oriented Ted's Montana Grill restaurant chain. Turner recently added to his portfolio another bison habitat, plus 3,500 bison, as well as the local pronghorn antelope and white-tailed deer in the purchase of Standing Butte Ranch in South Dakota. Turner Ranches are also located in New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Montana and Idaho.
The Connecticut-based executive and philanthropist was once the CEO of cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. from 1973 to 1996 and is now chairman of Liberty Media. He owns the ranching and beef company Silver Spur Ranches, which has land in Wyoming, New Mexico and Colorado, but the biggest share of of his acreage is a mostly uninhabited forest in Maine.