Media mogul to buy 900K acres in Maine
PORTLAND, Maine – Billionaire media mogul John Malone plans to buy more than 900,000 acres of forestland in Maine and New Hampshire in what is thought to be largest land deal in Maine in more than six years.
BBC Land LLC is set to buy the land for an undisclosed price from current owner GMO Renewable Resources. Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media Corp., told The Associated Press in an e-mail that he has had a longtime interest in land conservation. Malone is the founder and manager of BBC Land LLC, according to records filed in Colorado and Maine.
“My interest in land conservation is well known and this pending land purchase in Maine will further enhance these efforts,” Malone said. “I intend to continue the forestry operations consistent with prior practices.”
The Bangor Daily News, which first reported the sale Tuesday, said the acreage includes large swaths in eastern and western Maine and more than 20,000 acres in New Hampshire. The paper said the deal was set to be completed Feb. 1.
A spokesman for GMO Renewable Resources, a forest investment management company, declined comment.
Liberty Media is an Englewood, Colo.-based company with diverse media interests that include the cable channel QVC, Expedia.com travel website, the Atlanta Braves baseball team and Sirius XM satellite radio. Forbes magazine last fall calculated Malone’s net worth at $3 billion.
Malone is one of the nation’s largest landowners, with 1.2 million acres, according to The Land Report magazine’s 2010 ranking of America’s top 100 landowners. Malone has bought tens of thousands of acres of land in Maine in the past, including a parcel of more than 50,000 acres near Jackman in western Maine in 2002.
When nearly 1 million acres – roughly 5 percent of Maine’s 22 million-acre land base – changes hands at once, there are concerns that a portion of the land will be converted to development, said Cathy Johnson, the North Woods project director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
That said, she’s cautiously optimistic because she’s never heard complaints about how Malone’s other property holdings in Maine have been managed.
“This could potentially be good, depending on what Mr. Malone’s objectives and goals are, but we just don’t know that. It would be wonderful if he turned out to be another Percival Baxter,” she said, referring to a former Maine governor who served from 1921-1925 and donated land to the state that became Baxter State Park.
The last land purchase of this scale in Maine probably took place in 2004, when GMO Renewable Resource bought more than 1 million acres from International Paper, said Jym St. Pierre, Maine director of Restore: The North Woods. When the Malone transaction is complete, it will mean that nearly 10 million acres of Maine forestland will have changed hands in the past 15 years, he said.
St. Pierre said he doesn’t known Malone’s motivation, but likes to think he’s conservation-minded.
“He has the ability, he has the resources, he has the opportunity to do something spectacular in terms of large-scale forest conservation in Maine,” he said.
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