Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Bill Gates: America’s Top Farmland Owner


The cofounder of Microsoft and his wife rank as America’s largest private farmland owners.

According to reporting by Wendy Culverwell in the Tri-City Herald, a 14,500-acre swath of choice Eastern Washington farmland in the Horse Heaven Hills of Benton County had just traded hands for almost $171 million. That’s a ginormous deal, one that pencils out to almost $12,000 per acre for a whole lot of acres.

Savvy investors have been plowing millions of dollars into farmland on both the Oregon and the Washington sides of the Columbia River Gorge. At current valuations, it’s one of the nation’s best farmland opportunities. In 2018, when 100 Circles sold, it was even better.

In 1994, the Gates hired the former Putnam Investments bond-fund manager to diversify the couple’s portfolio away from the Microsoft co-founder’s 45 percent stake in the technology giant while maintaining comparable or better returns. According to a 2014 profile of Larson in the Wall Street Journal, these investments include a substantial stake in AutoNation, hospitality interests such as the Charles Hotel in Cambridge and the Four Seasons in San Francisco, and “at least 100,000 acres of farmland in California, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, and other states ….” According to the Land Report 100 Research Team, that figure is currently more than twice that amount, which means Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has an alter ego: Farmer Bill, the guy who owns more farmland than anyone else in America.