NAVIGATION

October 18, 2017
Florida's new land baron

Photo: Lucas Jackson/Newscom

Thomas Peterffy was one of the first to trade stocks electonically.

Statewide Roundup

Florida's new land baron

Jason Garcia | 1/26/2017

On July 19 of last year, a land-use attorney from Tallahassee appeared before commissioners in Taylor County, a rural north Florida county about 50 miles southeast of the state capital. The issue was mundane: The attorney’s client, a year-old company called Four Rivers Land & Timber, had recently purchased some property in the area, and it wanted to amend land-planning documents to reflect the new owner’s name.

But it was no ordinary property. The land Four Rivers had just bought — a 500,000-plus-acre tract of timberland spreading across five counties — was believed to be the largest contiguous piece of undeveloped property in private hands east of the Mississippi River. It included more than half of all the land in Taylor County itself. And the previous owner, Foley Timber & Land, had spent years negotiating a long-term development blueprint for the property.

The investor behind Four Rivers remained a mystery in north Florida for a year after the company paid at least $710 million in December 2015 to buy Foley’s land and timber business. “Who Owns Four Rivers?” wondered a headline in the local paper. Asked what names he’s heard rumored, Bruce Ratliff, the Taylor County property appraiser, laughed. “Lord, everybody from Donald Trump to God-only-knows.”

Turns out that Florida’s newest land baron is, in fact, a billionaire with a home in Palm Beach just a few minutes south of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, but he’s a lot wealthier than the new president.

ALSO IN THIS ARTICLE: Thomas Peterffy; Auley Rowell

 

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