NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel opined, "Property is the first embodiment of freedom." Most would wholeheartedly agree.
Recently, I was reading an article in the Oct. 8 edition of Fortune magazine and discovered who is America's number 1 owner of private land. Care to guess who that would be?
My guess would have been Ted Turner but, alas, he is now #2. The top spot, the largest private landowner in this country, is John Malone. According to The Land Report magazine, Malone owns an estimated 2.2 million acres of U.S. of woodlands, ranch land and cropland.
He's still behind the individual who owns the most land in the world, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, and that's because she technically owns places like Canada and Australia, her "Commonwealth." I'm sure Malone doesn't mind, because as a billionaire he can just keep buying all the property he wants. Malone made his billions by prescient business decisions, like being early to the party on the value of cable TV and media businesses. He was also good at executing some complex financial deals in the world of telecommunications. He worked for 25 years for one of the legends of the telecommunications industry, Bob Magness, who owned a start-up cable-television company called Tele-Communications Inc. It later became known as TCI, and Malone worked hard and long to build it into what would become the second-largest cable-TV company in the nation, after Time Warner (TWX) . In 199 Malone sold TCI to AT&T (T) for $48 billion.
Shortly thereafter, Malone purchased the 80,000-acre Silver Spur ranch in Saratoga, Wy., his first major land deal. That whet his appetite to search for more property to buy. His friend Ted Turner turned Malone on to "the idea of investing in land ownership and stewardship." As Malone told Fortune, "Ted...was the one who gave me the concept that you could do well and do good in landownership." You can indirectly participate in the benefits of residential property ownership where the objective is buying low, collecting rent on these properties and then, when these properties appreciate fully, sell. This can be done by buying shares of Blackstone Group (BX).
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