Just south of the Elmendorf-Richardson military base in Anchorage, Alaska, there's a seven-block mobile home park named Four Seasons, where rentals start at $1,300 a month.

It's one of at least 40 multifamily properties in the area, or about 12 percent of the city's entire rental market, owned by Weidner Investment Services.

"They're the 800-pound gorilla in town," Kim Johnson, a real estate agent with Paragon Properties, said in a phone interview.

The 4,000 apartments are a fraction of the more than 38,000 units the company owns in Seattle, Phoenix, Colorado, Texas, Canada's Alberta and Saskatchewan provinces, and the Twin Cities.

Locally, the company made a major splash by more than doubling its holdings and paying top prices for trophy properties in recent months.

Just this week, Weidner paid a record $109 million for 222 Hennepin, a mixed-use project with nearly 300 luxury apartments and the first Whole Foods store in downtown Minneapolis.

Just months before, the company paid more than $78 million for three suburban apartment properties with 606 units, according to Abe Appert of CBRE's Multifamily Group Minneapolis office. That deal included Greens at Edinburgh in Brooklyn Park, Plymouth Square at 37th in Plymouth, and Town Centre at Lexington in Eagan.

Weidner's holdings across the U.S. and Canada have a net asset value of more than $2.3 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, making the company's 72-year-old founder, Dean Weidner, a billionaire.

Greg Cerbana, a spokesman for Weidner Apartment Homes, declined to comment. Andrew Kinstler, a partner at law firm Helsell Fetterman in Seattle, said in a phone call that Weidner didn't want to be featured in an article.

Weidner's mother began teaching him how to maintain and manage his family's duplex and fourplex apartments in Colorado Springs when he was 14 years old, according to a 2002 profile in Alaska Business Monthly. He continued to manage them through college, according to the article.

He bought his first property in Seattle in 1977, Weidner said in an October 2013 talk at University of Wisconsin-Stout, where he donated $1 million to the business school. At the time, he was an assistant vice president at Alaska Airlines and became an executive vice president at TravAlaska Tours in 1980. He bought his first Anchorage rental properties, with 290 units, in 1981.

"They recognize the opportunity in small markets," said Gary Klockenteger, senior vice president of valuation advisory at Kidder Mathews in Seattle.

The company invests $400 million annually, adding 4,000 units a year, and Weidner reviews 20 to 30 purchase opportunities with his acquisitions team a week, according to an official university write-up of the conversation at Wisconsin-Stout. It's the 30th-largest owner of rental properties in the United States, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council.

"While we continue to acquire and build new communities, we rarely sell our properties providing consistency, and continuity for the long term," the company's website says.

Weidner owns more than 30 properties in Arizona, with at least 9,900 units, valued about $1 billion before accounting for debt, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The company has also invested in U.S. and Canadian housing markets where the shale oil boom created new jobs, and where falling oil prices now weigh on the local economies.

It owns at least 18 properties with more than 2,900 units in Midland and Odessa, Texas, towns west of Dallas in the oil-rich Permian Basin region, where the number of operating drilling rigs has dropped with oil prices, according to Bloomberg Intelligence reports.

In Midland, Texas, Weidner is a "big player," said Scott Williams, whose Scott Williams Team Realtors owns about 350 apartment units in the area.

Staff writer Jim Buchta contributed to this report.