Who are the richest families in the country today, and how did they make their mountains of money? It seems that some of them struck gold recently, but many are names you might recognize from those favorite products and services that have been around forever — some since your grandmother’s childhood. And maybe you never thought there were real faces behind the famous company names!
While most fortunes are relatively new in the United States, there are a few exceptions. A number of mega-rich families have managed to fight the usual rule that wealth that never lasts by maintaining and growing their accounts for the next generation. And we really mean growing! Let’s take a look at the list, shall we?
Net Worth: $130 Billion
If you’ve ever wondered who the mysterious man behind your local Walmart is, the answer is that he has long been gone! Sam Walton started the company in 1962, and today it is his descendants who are living large on the family fortune. The Waltons are currently ranked number one as the richest family in the United States.
Walmart is actually the world’s largest retail store! There’s certainly one near you right now, if you live anywhere in America. Or even if you live in Chile, Guatemala, South Africa, Mozambique, and many other nations that have opened their doors to the chain! Many of Sam’s siblings and grandchildren are involved on different levels with the company today, and they control the leadership board and much of the stock. Sam Walton was known for driving a modest Ford F-150 even as a millionaire running his company. Do you think his kids have upgraded?
Net Worth: $82 Billion
Business: Diversified Industry
You may have heard the name for their involvement in U.S. political donations, but what exactly do the Koch’s make? How did they get their billions, anyway? The answer lies in the diversified assets of Koch Industries.
Based in Kansas, the company is involved with quite a few products! Petroleum at various stages of production, ranching, fertilizer and minerals, fiber, polymers, pulp and paper — and that’s just the beginning! Seems like the Kochs have pretty broad interests, or at least a very narrow interest in one thing: Building and sustaining massive amounts of wealth! The siblings are divided today, and have had well known business disputes in the paper. However it eventually gets resolved, Koch Industries is a major employer and 120,000 workers across the world are currently on the payroll.
Net Worth: $78 Billion
Mars bars are one thing everyone loves, and the Mars family was smart enough to put them out on the market all the way back in 1932! Originally invented by Forrest Mars Senior, today the family enjoys tens of billions in personal saved wealth that few could ever dream of. Other gifts we have to thank them for include Snickers and M&M’s!
Forrest’s siblings were his heirs, and they have no daily role in the company. Today, they pursue their passions. For example, his sister loves horses and has a trustee role for the U.S. Equestrian Team. Her son and her niece are indeed involved with the company today with significant roles on the board of directors.
Net Worth: $49 Billion
Business: Cargill Inc.
An interesting fact about the Cargill-MacMillan family is that they have more billionaires combined than any other family worldwide. At the moment, their total is 14! So how did this good fortune happen for them?
Members of the family own 88% of Cargill Inc., a huge company with diversified holdings. Although it was originally founded in 1865 as a grain storage company, Cargill has grown to include quite a lot more in the agribusiness sector. Today they deal with financial risk management, sourcing ingredients, selling food, trading commodities, and more! Six members sit on the board of directors today.
Net Worth: $41 billion
So who is the Cox family? No, not Courtney Cox. This group is involved in media, though! At the beginning, the business was newspapers. Then, cable TV and internet. And now: Radio stations galore, more channels, and some software acquisitions in addition. The Cox Family purchased DealerTrack, software used for car dealerships. They also own the popular website AutoTrader.com, which you may have used yourself!
Today, the fortune is divided between the founder’s grandchildren: Jim, Blair, James, Katharine, and Margaretta. The company currently has operations across the world and is led by Alexander C. Taylor, a great-grandson of the founder. Alexander has taken the company in a new direction of environmental responsibility, detailing his initiatives on the corporate website. They seem to have little to do with the original media and web projects of the company, but it is an interesting new direction of business! Cox Enterprises has invested at least $124 million in sustainable agriculture projects through a company called BrightFarms and builds greenhouses near major cities for food production. They say that these greenhouses actually use 90% less water and produce 10 times the product compared to a normal farm!
S.C. Johnson Family
Net Worth: $30 Billion
Business: Cleaning Products
Johnson & Johnson certainly has a product in your home right now — take a look at the back of your soaps, ziplock bags, and toothpaste for a minute and you will realize the hold they have on the market in many areas. The Johnson family is from Wisconsin, and really made it big when SC Johnson founded a company for floor wax! The beginning was all the way back in 1886, but it has been growing steadily ever since. His son died without a will in 1928, and a family fight occurred regarding the fortune! Eventually, it was settled in a 60-40 split between his two kids.
Business continued! Today, Johnson & Johnson is the parent company of many brands we know and love. They marketed themselves as “A Family Company” on commercials for years, but they changed the motto in 2018. Now, they call themselves “A Family Company at Work for a Better World” — and perhaps a few of their more recent projects have something to do with the change. They are the main funder of the Serra das Almas Private Natural Heritage Reserve in Brazil, which protects special trees that produce carnauba wax. They also now use wind turbines at their biggest plant in Wisconsin, and with other combined green technology they produce enough electricity to completely power the building!
Net Worth: $29 Billion
Business: Hotels + Investments
So who exactly are the Pritzkers? Well, it turns out that they are a group that includes 11 billionaires! Their family business started with the Hyatt Hotel chain from Chicago, which is certainly a name you know now. The mega success of this hotel venture meant that the family could invest in other assets, and invest they did!
Today, the company is not entirely family-run. Just the Executive chairman of Hyatt, really. The rest of the clan has moved on to other dreams after years of dispute over money. They have divided the fortune and now have pretty interesting jobs: U.S. Commerce Secretary, movie producer, and investment firm owner are just a few titles family members currently hold.
(Edward) Johnson Family
Net Worth: $28.5 Billion
Business: Money Management
Another Johnson family on our list has nothing to do with shampoo or toothpaste! This group of Johnson is involved in the well known mutual fund Fidelity, founded in 1946. The family ran the fund through multiple generations of managers, and today remains the case as well. Today, Abigail Johnson is CEO. And directly before, it was her father. All in the family appears to be the way to go!
Today, other members of the family have started other ventures. Edward Johnson IV has a real estate company, for example. And it’s doing very well, but Abigail seems to be the publicly recognized standout at the moment. Forbes has really taken noticed, and named her the 5th most powerful woman in the world in 2018!
Net Worth: $28 Billion
Business: Hearst Corp.
The Hearst Corporation is not exactly new, started in 1887 by William Randolph Hearst. But today, the business has grown quite a bit since his initial purchase of The San Francisco Examiner when he was in his 20’s! Newspaper after newspaper was acquired, and radio became a part of the group as well. Later, WIlliam became a New York congressman.
So what do the remaining Hearst members do today? William’s son became a prize-winning journalist, an apple not far from the tree in terms of industry choice. His grandson also stayed in the realm of journalism, as the current chair of the company today. The industry has changed significantly, and Hearst now finds itself with stakes in ESPN, A&E, and lifetime. They also own 46 newspapers and 340 magazines worldwide, so it’s a pretty big project these days! The overall fortune is split between 67 members of the family.
Net Worth: $21.5 Billion
The Duncan family is enjoying their fortune from Enterprise Products Partners, a firm that specializes in natural gas and crude oil. The headquarters are in Houston, and they are one of the largest Fortune 500 companies in the nation! Founded by Dan Duncan, the company has increased in value tremendously over time due to wise investments and a growing oil and gas market worldwide.
When Dan died, his personal estate was divided between his children: Randa Duncan Williams, Dannine Duncan Avara, Milane Frantz, and Scott Duncan. Today, Randa is the chairman of the board of Enterprise Products Partners.
Net Worth: $18.5 Billion
Business: Magazines + Cable TV
The Newhouse family is involved in the publishing industry today, and there is a long history in the field. Samuel and Donald Newhouse inherited a company from their father called Advance Publications. Together, they grew the company into one of the biggest in America — not just in the publishing sector.
What is included in this business group? Some names you surely know, like Vogue, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker. Their media holdings also include many newspapers around the country and well known forum Reddit online. The company is now run by a few family members in their 80’s as well as a sprite 60’s something President, Steven O. Newhouse.
Net Worth: $17.9 Billion
Business: Estee Lauder
Estee Lauder herself is no longer around, but her company has been carried into the future by her descendants. And its success only continues to grow! Although she orignally started the business with her husband way back in the 40’s, the company is much more than her namesake line at present. Around 30 brands are now under its umbrella, including Bobbi Brown, Clinique, and MAC.
Five of her heirs received more than $1 billion at her death, and they all made themselves pretty busy making their names in the cosmetics world. Her son Leonard is the Estee Lauder chairman emeritus. Another son, Ronald, is the chairman of Clinique — though he also had a second interesting career that involved a position as the U.S. ambassador to Austria. Even her grandkids are involved in the family business! Grandson William is the executive chair, and granddaughters Aerin and Jane have high level positions. Grandson Gary, however, has moved on to investment in Silicon Valley.
Net Worth: $17.1 Billion
Business: Campbell Soup Co.
So who exactly was behind the Cambpell’s Soup fortune? Well, it turns out it is someone with the last name “Dorrance” — John T. Dorrance, the inventor, president, and owner of the famous formula and brand. His heirs include 11 lucky individuals, many of whom still bear the Dorrance name today.
Around 40 percent of the expanded modern company is owned by these 11 decedents, and some of the founder’s grandkids sit on the board. They are aging out, however. Charlotte Colket Weber left the board at age 72. Will the next generation be involved in this long established family company, or decide to cash out? One already has!
Net Worth: $14.4 Billion
The Ziffs made a lot of their money in hedge funds, and they certainly did better than most people in the business! In 2014, they decided to close their firms in London and America and move on to other ventures. One brother, Dirk Ziff, has opened Ziff Capital Partners in Manhattan.
With their hands freed up, they can focus on personal investments with the help of some of their former colleagues. But how did it all get started? In 1927, grandfather William Ziff actually opened a publishing business. That company has grown to include some magazines you may actually read today — like PC Magazine. It was sold for $1.4 billion in the 90’s, and the Ziff brothers used that wealth to land themselves on this very list today!
Du Pont Family
Net Worth: $14.3 Billion
DuPont is a name you might be familiar with if you have ever painted your house before. The name is on some commonly bought items, but the company itself is involved with a wider array of good than what you may see yourself at the hardware store. What are the origins of this company, and where did it all begin?
More than 200 years ago, a prisoner of the French revolution fled to the New World and founded a company that started with gunpowder. And today 3,500 descendants share the fortune! Along the way, the company expanded to dynamite, dyes, plastics, and more. Nylon and teflon were materials invented by the company, and remain very common for use today! With thousands of family members bearing the DuPont name, a few crazy outliers have made it into the news in recent years with violent crimes! One member was elected to a governorship, and many more have gone their own way in life. Not surprising that a few bad apples made it in the bunch, but of course most DuPonts are perfectly nice and normal.
Net Worth: $13.7 Billion
The Hunt Family made their money through oil, a good that the market never stops demanding. Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr. actually traded poker game winnings for oil rights in Texas, long ago. A good chunk of East Texas Oil Field then came into his possession, which happens to be one of the world’s largest.
Today, his descendants do many interesting things with their time. One of his sons runs Hunt Oil and the other manages Petro-Hunt. His daughter decided to go in a different direction, and founded Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. HIs kids actually have significant stakes in two sports teams: The Kansas City Chiefs and the Chicago Bulls. Beyond this, the Hunt family owns serious real estate in the Kansas City area and beyond.
Net Worth: $13.7 Billion
Business: Real Estate
If you’ve ever wondered who the most successful real estate family is, the answer is the Goldman’s. The firm is called Solil Management, and they own more than 400 properties in New York City. Their holdings include prime real estate in Manhattan near the site of the former World Trade Center, commercial space in midtown, and fancy buildings on the Upper East Side.
At the moment, the family company is managed by Jane, the daughter of founder Sol Goldman. In the late 50’s, he began the buying process by choosing unwanted and foreclosed properties at bargain prices. His trick was to pay in cash whenever he could, and he really got a foothold in the NYC market at the time. His children each own 25 percent of the company today, and they have not sold off many of his original investments yet today.
Net Worth: $13.4 Billion
The Busch Family is behind you favorite beer, Budweiser! Or maybe you’re really a fan of Miller Lite, but that’s not the point. This family managed to survive with its product before and after prohibition, and they are still one of the richest in the country today. But how did it all get started?
In 1876, Carl Conrad name his creation after a town in Germany: Budweiss. At the time, he lived in St. Louis, Missouri. The special mixture he invented had an ingredient quite different than the European varieties he must have known, but he innovated with a combination of 30 percent rice! This is not the typical beer, and perhaps the formula has been modified a few times since then. But indeed, everyone in America knows the name of the beer Carl brought to the market. It’s a big bestseller, and around 30 members of the Family have a chunk of the beer fortune today. The original company has been sold to outside investors, and the family has started a new small one!
Net Worth: $13 Billion
Business: Pain Medication
The Sackler family founded Purdue Pharma in the 1980’s, and they grew it to be one of the most profitable drug companies in the country today. They started out with less complicated medications like laxatives, but they eventually moved on to something more experimental: Opiates. And for this, the family is currently in the news, not exactly enjoying good PR at this moment in time.
While marketed a the next generation of painkillers that patients did indeed demand, the addictive properties were either not fully known or intentionally downplayed by pharmaceutical reps across the country. Today, around 20 family members have a chunk of the fortune. Lawsuits in the future may remove this clan from the list, but only time will tell.
Net Worth: $12.3 Billion
There are a lot of people with the name Brown, but few with the fortunes of this special family specializing in one of our favorite vices: Old fashioned whiskey! Brown-Forman Corp. is the maker of some of the most popular brands we know and love, like Jack Daniel’s, Finlandia, and Herradura tequila. The company was actually founded all the way back in 1870 by George Garvin Brown, a pharmaceutical salesman.
The company is actually responsible for the first bourbon made in America, and they still continue to innovate. Today, the Brown family has split its fortune 25 ways, and they continue to keep a majority stake in the company — 51 percent, to be precise.