By Andrew Joseph, Farms.com
Call it an investment by someone who knows how to make money be it short-term or in this instance, long-term, but Bill Gates is “probably” still America’s largest private farm owner. The reason for the “probably” caveat is explained later in this article.
Farmer Bill, who is famous for his being the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, is the fourth-richest person on the planet, but he didn’t just get there by being a computer guy.
Back in 1994, Gates began to diversify his 45-percent share in Microsoft to either maintain a comparable financial level or to garner higher returns—the old adage “don’t place all your eggs in one basket” applies here.
For Gates, this included investment in more than 100,000 acres of farm real estate in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and others, which means he owns a lot of farmland in the U.S.—thanks to Canada.
In fact, back in 2017, the largest purchase by Gates was for the farmland then-owned by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The Investment Board had previously purchased the Agricultural Company of America, which owned more than 100,000 acres in nine U.S. states. When it was sold to the Canada Investment Plan Investment Board in 2013, it was a leading owner of row crop farmland in America.
In 2016, the CPP Investment Board also paid US$2.5-billion (~CDN$3.175-billion) for 40-percent of Glencore Agricultural Products, a global grain and oilseed business, featuring origination, processing, storage, logistics and marketing. But next year, sold it to Gates via other businesses he owned.
Recently, Farmer Bill divorced his wife of 27 years, Melinda French Gates, with combined pre-divorce net worth of approximately US$152-billion (~CDN$193-billion), following a non-public separation contract. One can only assume a 50-50 split would still leave a net worth of US$76-billion (~CDN$96.5-billion) apiece.
The biggest Gates landholdings–keep in mind this is prior to the divorce, and we don’t know how the Gates’ assets were divvied up–are: Farmland: 242,000 acres; Transitional: 25,750 acres; Recreational: 1,234 acres – for a Total: 268,984 acres.
However, if the farmland was divided 50-50 between the two, the 121,000 acres of farmland would take them out of the Top 5 US private farmland owners.
Following the Gates’ holdings, are the Offutt Family (190,000 acres); the Resnicks (190,000 acres); the Fanjul family (160,000 acres), and the Boswell clan (150,000 acres).
While Bill Gates “may” not own farmland in Canada, for those considering farm real estate purchases here, at least you can have something in common with one of the richest people on the planet—being a farmer, like the guy who helped found Microsoft.
Photo by Brad West on Unsplash