Bill Gates’ divorce could end secret life as biggest US farmland owner

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ divorce from wife Melinda could break up his relatively unknown standing as the biggest owner of farmland in America.

While he made his $130 billion fortune through tech, Gates also owns nearly 270,000 acres (422 square miles) of land across more than a dozen states, according to a January investigation by The Land Report of the largely hidden investments.

The vast majority — some 242,000 acres (378 square miles) — is farmland, at least 50,000 acres more than the family with the next-largest holdings, the outlet said.

“Bill Gates, co-founder of Microsoft, has an alter ego: Farmer Bill, the guy who owns more farmland than anyone else in America,” wrote the mag’s editor, Eric O’Keefe.

The land is now likely to be part of the divorce deal for the couple, who admitted in filings that they did not have a prenuptial agreement for the 27-year marriage.

The extensive farmland portfolio was managed by Michael Larson, who also looked after the Gateses’ personal portfolio and the portfolio for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for at least 25 years, the report said.

They own more than 16,000 acres in their home state of Washington, but their largest investment is in Louisiana, where they have 69,071 acres (108 square miles), The Land Report said.

They also have nearly 48,000 acres in Arkansas, some 25,750 acres in Arizona and more than 20,000 in Nebraska, the survey said.

The Gateses previously shared their interest in farming when their foundation last year launched a Nonprofit Agricultural Research Institute, known as Gates Ag One and based in the greater St. Louis area.

As well as farmland, the former couple is understood to have bought a “significant stake” in 2017 in 24,800 acres of transitional land on the western edge of Phoenix that has been earmarked for a “brand-new metropolis” with up to 80,000 homes, the report noted.

Larson made the investments through Cascade Investment LLC, which declined to comment about the Gateses’ holdings, The Land Report said at the time.

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