Brad M. Kelley
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|Brad M. Kelley|
|Born||Brad Maurice Kelley
Bowling Green, Kentucky
|Known for||Fourth-largest U.S. landholder|
Brad Maurice Kelley (born 1956) is an American businessman who is the fourth-largest landowner in the U.S., with an estimated net worth of US$1.9 billion in 2014. He founded the Commonwealth Brands tobacco company in 1991 and sold the company in 2001 to Houchens Industries for US$1 billion. As of 2014, Kelley's business interests include Calumet Farm, NC2 Media (Lonely Planet) and the Center for Innovation and Technology business park.
Kelley was born and raised in Bowling Green, Kentucky and went to high school in Franklin, Kentucky, where he was a secretary for the Future Farmers of America and was named Kentucky high school conservationist of the year. He bought his first piece of land, a farm near his childhood home, at age 17, and his first warehouse at age 20. He attended Western Kentucky University for a short period but left before the completion of his studies to pursue business interests.
Kelley grew up on a farm that included tobacco, and his early business ventures were a response to changes in the tobacco industry. Because of declining production in the 1980s, many old warehouses in Kentucky stood vacant. He started buying these warehouses, converting them to other uses, and then leasing them out. This interest evolved into manufacturing. In 1991, he founded Commonwealth Brands, a tobacco company that manufactured cigarettes, headquartered in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The company was later sold in 2001 to Houchens Industries for US$1 billion. Kelley has never smoked, and he said in 2012, "I've never defended [smoking]. Hopefully it will be phased out of society."
In May 2012, Kelley became the operator of the historic Calumet Farm in Lexington. He was already involved in Thoroughbred breeding and racing operations. He was formerly the largest shareholder and a board member of Churchill Downs. In May 2013, his colt Oxbow won the Preakness Stakes.
In March 2013, the commercial arm of the BBC, BBCW, announced the sale of Lonely Planet to Kelly's NC2 Media. Lonely Planet is the world's most successful guidebook publisher, having printed over 100 million guidebooks, in addition to magazines, digital content, and other travel services.
Kelley is a resident of Franklin, Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, U.S., and is married with three children. He rarely gives interviews and does not use email. Kelley is very active in the conservation movement. He supports many environmental and wildlife conservation interests, including The Center for The Conservation of Tropical Ungulates. The center supports many animal species, including rhino, tapir, wild cattle, and antelope.
- "2012 Land Report 100". The Land Report. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- "Brad Kelley". Forbes. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Munk, Nina (September 25, 2005). "Don't Blink. You'll Miss the 258th-Richest American". The New York Times. Retrieved December 26, 2012.
- Clampet, Jason (March 19, 2013). "BBC confirms sale of Lonely Planet to U.S. billionaire". Skift.com. Retrieved June 7, 2013.