The Land Report scoop made headlines. Many stories focused on #Gates’ longstanding interest in climate change and sustainability and suggested those concerns might be driving the land purchases.

By James B. Meigs
February 27, 2021
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Newsweek called him a “sustainable agriculture champion.”

Those stories dovetailed with earlier reports about Gates’ large land acquisitions in Arizona. Most notably, in 2017, the Gates-affiliated Mt. Lemmon Holdings invested in some 40 square miles of “transitional” land on the western fringe of the Phoenix sprawl. 

Some partners in the Arizona project issued a press release touting plans to build “a forward-thinking community … that embraces cutting-edge technology.” There was talk of “high-speed digital networks” and “autonomous logistics hubs.” That was all it took for many in the media to conclude that Gates was personally engineering the city of the future.

“Bill Gates has started laying out his plans for creating a ‘smart city’ in Phoenix, Arizona,” science-news outlet Futurism wrote. This high-tech metropolis “could be both a breeding and testing ground for futuristic technologies.”

In reality, the idea that Bill Gates was single-handedly reinventing farming — or designing cities of tomorrow — was almost entirely speculation.

“There’s a tendency in the media to personalize this,” O’Keefe says. “People want to know, ’Why does Bill Gates want all this land?’ ”

But hyper-wealthy people like Gates don’t make every decision personally, O’Keefe notes. “He has very competent investment managers.”

Given that Gates is the third-richest person in the world — with an estimated net worth of $132 billion, he falls in behind Tesla founder Elon Musk and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos — those money managers have their hands full.

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