This Billionaire Is the Second-Largest Foreign Owner of U.S. Land

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Jan 19, 2024

Chen Tianqiao, a Chinese billionaire and gaming industry pioneer, purchased close to 200,000 acres of Orgean land in 2015, becoming the second-largest non-Amercian land owner in the U.S.

After obtaining the vast swath of forested land for $85 million just under a decade ago, this placed the 50-year-old business owner at number 82 on the list of America’s largest landowners.

Shanda Interactive Gaming Company

Hailing from the Zhejiang province of China, Chen made his fortune from Shanda Interactive, a gaming company he founded in 1999 (via MSN).

Visitors try out the latest version of Final Fantasy during the press day at the 2019 Gamescom

Source: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The company, famous for producing games, including “Dungeons and Dragons Online” and “Final Fantasy XIV,” was worth an estimated $8 billion in 2018.

Gaming Tycoon Buys Up Oregon Land

Back in 2015, the Californian resident decided to spend over $85 million on 198,000 acres of Oregon timberlands, purchasing the land from Fidelity National Financial Ventures.

Photograph of Chen Tianqiao as he receives a golden medal during the Economy Elites Awards in Shanghai, China

Source: China Photos/Getty Images

After paying around $430 per acre of land, Chen entered into the list of the top 100 largest property owners in the States, coming in at number 82.

Finally Placed on the Land List

While Chen completed the initial land purchase nearly nine years ago, he was only added to the Land Report list last week.

Aerial image of a large portion of grassy land accompanied by a large home

Source: Freepik

The Land Report releases an updated summary of America’s top landowners each year.

Chen Falls Behind Irving Family

The enormous tract of land in Oregon also made the Shanda founder the second-largest foreign landowner in America.

Aerial image of a lush green forested region that sits next to a mountain face

Source: Freepik

He is only surpassed by the Irving family of Canada, who own around 1.2 million acres of timberland in the state of Maine.

Philanthropy Donation to Californian Institute

Chen’s hand in founding the gaming company Shanda Interactive has given him a net worth that is estimated to be around $1 billion.

Photograph of the California Institute of Technology’s exterior during a sunny day

Source: @yaxisstudy/X

Philanthropy is another of Chen’s interests. He and his wife, Chrissy Luo, donated around $115 million to the Tianqiao and Chrissy Chen Institute for Neuroscience at the California Institute of Technology in 2016.


Foreign Ownership Becoming a Big Problem

Chen Tianqiao is one of many foreign nationals who now own enormous portions of agricultural land in the states.

A person seated at a white desk uses a silver pen to sign their name on a paper contract

Source: Freepik

In recent years, foreign ownership has become a sensitive topic. Reports published in 2001 suggest noncitizens own over 40 million acres of American farmland, according to Financial Post.


Canadians Own Vast Swathes of U.S. Land

Various politicians have voiced their concern about too much agricultural land being sold to China. Yet, in reality, Chinese nationals own a tiny fraction, equal to around 0.03% of all farmland in the United States.

Aerial image of many acres worth of agricultural land surrounded by mountains in the distance

Source: Freepik

In comparison, Canadian citizens own an immense portion of American land, coming in at around 32%, most of which is in Maine, per the American Farm Bureau Federation.


Lawmakers Push for National Rules

As more and more agricultural land is sold off to the highest bidder, lawmakers have pushed for new legislation that would potentially restrict the amount of land foreign investors can purchase.

Two Lawyers sit down at a wooden desk as they read over paperwork together

Source: Freepik

Last July, the Senate decided to implement a law that would essentially ban the sale of agricultural land to foreign residents from North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China once it surpasses a specific amount.


Investors Seeking More and More Land

Wealthy foreigners have been drawn to farmland in recent years as a means of investment.

Photograph of a red and white for sale placed in a field beside a large tree trunk

Source: Freepik

According to the USDA, in 2022, American agricultural land value increased by $630 per acre (14.3%) from the previous year.


What's Driving Land Prices Up?

Reports suggest there are a few reasons behind the rising prices of farmland across the states in recent years.

Woman works on trimming lettuce as it grows in a field covered by a large roof

Source: Freepik

The most prevalent is the increasing demand for food and inflation. However, interest in classic ranches, which can be used recreationally, also plays a role in the rising prices.


America's Largest Land Owner

If you’re wondering who owns the most land in the U.S., there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of them. The Emmerson family sits firmly at the top of the list of the largest owners in the nation (per Business Insider Mexico).

Photograph of a sizeable agricultural field full of crops that sits next to various hills

Source: Freepik

The Emmersons have held the spot since 2021 and currently own over 2.4 million acres of land spread across Washington, Oregon, and California.