"Buy land, they're not making it anymore."
– Mark Twain
Philip Anschutz must have taken Mark Twain's famous quote to heart, as he owns more land than nearly any other American. It's an investment that has paid off quite handsomely over time, and he has found hidden treasures both above and below the land he owns, which has fueled billions of dollars into his pocket.
In fact, according to Forbes, he's estimated to be worth $13.1 billion. It's wealth he created by seeing what others missed; however, land isn't the only place where he finds value where others don't.
Sitting on unseen riches
Phillip Anschutz actually got his start in business as an oil wildcatter after taking over his father's fledgling oil company. It's a company he turned around, and then sold, only to get right back into the oil game by starting his own oil company Anschutz Exploration Co.
He made his land investments, which were mainly made for farming and ranching, as a way to diversify away from the volatile oil business, as ranching has long been a common way that oil barons diversify. However, it's these land holdings that have turned out to be some of Anschutz's greatest investments -- not just from the agricultural income, but from the value that could be found above and below the land.
For example, in the 1980s, Anschutz made the largest oil discovery since the 1968 discovery of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in Alaska. His massive 1 billion barrel oil field was found literally right under his feet, as the discovery was made on his very own Anschutz Ranch in Utah. He immediately cashed in on the field by selling a stake to ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) for $500 million.
More recently, he began a long process to cash in on a 500-square-mile cattle ranch he owns in Wyoming. It was a ranch he initially wanted to sell in 2006 for a mere $50 million before one of his employees had a better idea. It was so windy on the ranch during the day, that it would make a perfect place for a wind farm.
In fact, the wind is so strong and the land so vast, that Anschutz is planning to invest upwards of $8 billion to build the largest wind farm in the world so that he can sell the renewable energy to California. The facility has the potential to generate enough renewable energy to power all of the households in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, earning Anschutz a hefty return in the process.
Content is king
In addition to the energy-infused riches brought to him by his landholdings, Anschutz has diversified his investments throughout the years, and more recently has spent a great deal of time and money on investments in entertainment. He was an early founder of Major League Soccer, and is largely credited with its survival to this day. He also owns sporting arenas around the world, including the Staples Center in L.A., as well as stakes in many of the teams that play in these arenas, including the L.A. Kings and Lakers.
He also started the family-friendly film production company Walden Media, which produced hits including The Chronicles of Narnia, and owns a large stake in movie chain the Regal Entertainment Group (NYSE:RGC). Further, he also owns the second-largest live music and entertainment company, Anschutz Entertainment Group.
What's worth noting about Anschutz's content-related ventures is that he owns a stake in both the content and the venue it's released in, which really boosts his income stream. In fact, his strategy is to own a piece of everything so that he can cross-promote, and win both ways. It's a plan that has worked out very well for his net worth over the years.
Investors can learn two very important lessons from Philip Anschutz's career. First, there's a lot of hidden value in land, which is why investors shouldn't overlook adding real estate to their portfolios, even if it's through an investment in a REIT, or other land-focused company.
The second lesson is the value of owning the content and the platforms used to distribute that connect. Companies that own both have two chances to win during the long term. Meanwhile, investors who see value where others don't will be the ones who uncover hidden treasures.