Why on earth would one man own 20 properties in 10 states, a swath of America so large that it not only dwarfs Rhode Island, but also exceeds both Rhode Island and Delaware combined? The answer is astonishingly simple. Because he’s Ted Turner.
The man is incapable of thinking small. That’s how he made his fortune, first by buying a failing UHF station and transforming it into WTBS. Then he launched CNN. Then he acquired the MGM movie library. Then he rolled out Turner Classic Movies. With Turner, one idea begets another, which is how he became the country’s leading land baron.
The brainstorm behind his far-flung empire was a single bison he bought in 1976. Three decades later, he owns 40,000, the largest private herd in the country. Bison steaks and bison burgers from Turner Ranches are shipped to upscale grocers coast to coast and served at his chain of restaurants, Ted’s Montana Grill.
Along the way, he purchased 14 ranches in 7 western states: 4 in Montana, 4 in Nebraska, and 3 others in South Dakota, Kansas, and Oklahoma. In New Mexico alone, he owns more than 1 million acres.
“I acquired more land because I required more land. I wanted it,” Turner said in a 2004 interview. “I never like to buy anything except land. It’s the only thing that lasts.”
The Turner portfolio also includes personal homes in the Atlanta area and in Big Sur, as well as plantations in South Carolina and Florida, where his beloved Avalon lies. This treasured retreat encompasses more than 25,000 acres south of Tallahassee, and with a conservationist’s touch, Turner is reintroducing longleaf pine on the property. The vast majority of his holdings, however, can be found on the Great Plains and in the Rocky Mountain West, where he stocks his bison.
Turner’s ultimate plan? According to published reports, after his death the properties will go into a trust, which his five children will manage until the last one passes away. At that point, the trust will revert to the Turner Foundation, an Atlanta-based charitable organization that Turner founded in 1990 to preserve the environment.