Billion-Dollar Bloodlines: America’s Richest Families 2015

Copyright Tracy O, Flickr
Copyright Tracy O, Flickr

Great fortunes don’t always last. New technology trumps the old, trends wane, management stumbles. Yet a few of the families who made FORBES second annual ranking of America’s Richest Families –we capped the list at 200 members this year — have withstood such challenges. Some, like the Huber family, have survived for six generations, dating back to the 1800s. Each of these clans is worth at least $1.2 billion. Collectively, they’re worth $1.3 trillion. Thirty-three newcomers join the ranks, including the Sackler family, whose company makes pain drug OxyContin; the Greenberg family behind Skechers shoes, and the Trincheros, owners of the fourth largest U.S. wine company.

The Walton family is the wealthiest family in the U.S. for the second year in a row. Six heirs of Wal-Mart founders Sam Walton and James “Bud” Walton together own about 54% of the global retailer. Forbes estimates their fortune at $149 billion — down from $152 billion last year due to a dip in Wal-Mart’s stock price. They are followed by the Koch family: two of the four Koch brothers, Charles and David, are politically active and run conglomerate Koch Industries, the second largest private company in the country. Coming in third: the Mars family, owners of the world’s largest candy company, maker of M&Ms and Milky Way, share an estimated $80 billion fortune. Frank Mars started selling candy from his kitchen in Tacoma, Washington in 1911.

Many of these families are behind well-known brands – Gore-Tex, Campbell’s soup, Estee Lauder cosmetics, Coors and Budweiser beer, Comcast cable TV, to name just a few. Some of the companies started by families on the list — like Publix Super Markets and Wegmans, benefit from a loyal customer base; those two supermarket chains are also partly owned by employees. Other fortunes lide in publicly traded companies. Still others are 100% family-owned businesses. Success comes in many forms.


Unlike our flagship Forbes 400 list of America’s richest and our World Billionaires ranks, which focus on individual or nuclear-family wealth, America’s 200 Richest Families includes multigenerational families of all sizes, ranging from just 2 brothers to the 3,500 members of the Du Pont clan. Families needed a combined net worth of $1.2 billion to make the cut. (Note: We left out self-made entrepreneurs who founded their companies and already appear with their nuclear family on our Forbes 400 list. That includes Jack Taylor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Also absent are married couples like Forever 21 founders Jin Sook and Do Won Chang).

To value their fortunes we added up their assets, including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art and cash, and took into account estimates of debt. For those with publicly traded holdings, we used stock prices from the close of trading on June 19, 2015. We excluded any assets irrevocably pledged to charitable foundations. We attempted to vet these numbers with all the families or their representatives. Some cooperated; others didn’t. Think we missed a clan?

NO. 20: BROWN — $12.8 BILLION

Founded by George Garvin Brown in 1870, Brown-Forman today makes some of the world’s best-known booze. That includes bar-shelf mainstay Jack Daniel’s, as well as Old Forester, the first bourbon bottled in America. The whiskey industry has been resurgent in recent years as consumers try new small-batch whiskeys and and rediscover old ones. Brown-Forman has tapped into that trend, too, making a big marketing push for its Woodford Reserve brand (now officially the bourbon of the Kentucky Derby) and Old Forester, which had been little known. The company also produces Finlandia vodka and Herradura tequila. The Browns own an estimated 51% of the publicly traded firm; George Garvin Brown IV, a member of the fifth generation, chairs the Brown-Forman board. At least 25 family members share the fortune.

No. 19: Johnson (Charles and Rupert) — $13.4 billion

The Johnson family fortune stems from Franklin Resources, a global investment management firm and mutual fund manager with nearly $890 billion in assets under management. Known as Franklin Templeton Investments, it was started by Rupert H. Johnson in 1947 as a retail brokerage firm on Wall Street. When Rupert retired in 1957, his son, Charles B. Johnson, took over and was later joined by his half-brother, Rupert Jr., in the 1960s. The company went public in 1971. Charles’ son, Gregory, is chairman and CEO, and his daughter, Jennifer, is COO. Rupert Jr. is vice chairman. The family owns about 35% of publicly traded Franklin Resources. Charles also has a large stake in the San Francisco Giants baseball team.

No. 18: Busch — $13.5 Billion

America’s first family of beer lost its business in 2008, when a group of Brazilian investors led InBev’s takeover of Anheuser-Busch. It was a stunning loss for a family that had been making beer since Adolphus Busch brewed his first batch of Budweiser in 1876. Prohibition almost put the company out of business, but his son August Busch Sr. survived by selling soda and ice cream. When Franklin D. Roosevelt repealed Prohibition, August reportedly sent a 24-beer crate to the White House. The family passed down the company through the generations but ended up selling an estimated 25% of the business from 1989 to 2008, leaving the family powerless to stop the $52 billion buyout bid. Seven years later, a branch of the Busch family is back in the beer business, albeit on a much smaller scale. Billy Busch founded William K Busch Brewing in 2011 with two lagers, Kraftig and Kraftig Light. Until recently, its beers were only distributed in Missouri and Illinois — but Billy insists it isn’t a micro-brewery and announced a major expansion into Texas in 2015.

No. 17: Dorrance — $13.6 billion

At least 11 descendants of one-time Campbell Soup Co. president and owner John T. Dorrance are heirs to his fortune. Together they own an estimated 50% stake in the company. Dorrance was a chemist who invented the formula for Campbell’s famous condensed soup in 1897 and became president of the company in 1914. His billionaire grandchildren Mary Alice D. Malone and Bennett Dorrance, as well as great-grandson Archibold D. van Beuren, sit on the board today. Charlotte Colket Weber, cousin of Malone and Dorrance and a devoted equestrian, stepped down at age 72 in November 2014 due to age limits. Heir John Dorrance III renounced his U.S. citizenship and moved to Ireland before cashing out his 10.5% stake nearly 20 years ago, reportedly to avoid capital gains taxes. Campbell Soup is now a global giant with more than $8.3 billion in revenues and brands such as Prego and Pepperidge Farm.

No. 16: Sackler — $14 billion

Brothers Arthur (d. 1987), Mortimer (d. 2010) and Raymond Sackler — all doctors — founded Purdue Pharma in 1952 after taking over a small, struggling New York drug manufacturer. The company sold several moderately successful products, like earwax remover and laxatives, but remained under the radar until the mid-1990s when Purdue began selling what amounted to morphine in a pill. OxyContin — a long-lasting, narcotic pain reliever — launched in 1995 and by 2003 Purdue was selling $1.6 billion of the product annually. But it quickly became abused by addicts who would crush the pills for a quick, intense high, sparking controversy and legal action against Purdue. The company paid more than $600 million in 2007 to settle charges with federal prosecutors that it had misbranded OxyContin as safer and less addictive than it was. Today, the company — still 100% owned by the Sackler family — generates more than $3 billion in sales in U.S., mostly from OxyContin. Separate Sackler-owned companies with similar products generate just as much money selling to Europe, Canada, Asia and Latin America. Purdue is once again facing a potentially enormous legal bill: a civil lawsuit by the state of Kentucky could reportedly yield damages in excess of $1 billion. Purdue denies wrongdoing in this case, noting that courts across the United States have dismissed similar cases against Purdue because evidence failed to establish the company’s marketing caused the alleged harm. An estimated 20 family members share the fortune.

No. 15: Hunt –$14.2 billion

Descendants of legendary wildcatter H.L. Hunt, the family has ranked among America’s richest since the 1960s. H.L., an inspiration for the character J.R. Ewing on the long-running TV series “Dallas,” had 15 children (one died in infancy) by three women. Today his descendants oversee discrete fortunes: Son Ray Lee oversees Hunt Oil; son William Herbert is a big player in shale; and daughter Caroline founded and later sold Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. His late son, sports magnate Lamar Hunt, is said to have named the Super Bowl, and his children still own the Kansas City Chiefs. In October 2014, his son Nelson Bunker Hunt, who tried to corner the silver market in the 1970s with brother William Herbert, died at age 88.

No. 14: Du Pont — $14.5 billion

The du Ponts own the nation’s oldest billion-dollar family fortune. It is also the largest, with an estimated 3,500 members. A prisoner during the French Revolution, E.I. du Pont fled Europe in 1799 for America, where he founded the company that continues to make his descendants rich two centuries later. DuPont started as a gunpowder manufacturer, later expanding into dynamite, paints, plastics, dyes and materials. Its scientists invented nylon, Kevlar and Teflon. Family members no longer run the company, which has evolved into a chemicals giant, but they still hold a substantial chunk of its shares. There is still an E.I. du Pont on the company’s board of directors. Pete du Pont was governor of Delaware from 1977-1985 and ran for president in 1988. Du Pont heir Robert Richards made national news in March 2014 when it came out that he had previously pled guilty to raping his three-year-old daughter. He was not the first member of the family to get in trouble with the law. In 1996 John E. du Pont murdered Olympic gold medal wrestler David Schultz. The story was retold in the 2014 film Foxcatcher, which was produced by another heir, Megan Ellison, daughter of billionaire Larry Ellison.

No. 13: Ziff — $15 Billion

Third-generation Ziff brothers shook up how they’ve been managing their family fortunes: In 2014 the billionaire brothers Dirk, Daniel and Robert shuttered their hedge funds in the U.S. and London, though they’re still using high-profile Ziff Brothers Investments to manage a portion of their investments. Eldest brother Dirk started his own family office Ziff Capital Partners within the past year. The brothers are also reportedly investing some of their billions with investors who were formerly at their hedge funds. The roots of their fortune date back to 1927 when their grandfather William Sr. first started his publishing business. Their father William Jr. built up Ziff Davis, which became best known for such trade publications as PC Magazine and Car and Driver, before selling it for $1.4 billion in 1994. The brothers who got the proceeds have since increased those proceeds tenfold.

No. 12: Lauder — $16.5 Billion

Queens, N.Y. native Estee Lauder started out selling homemade skin creams to women in hair salons. She founded the Estee Lauder cosmetics with her husband in 1946. The company has grown to encompass 30 brands of make-up, including Clinique, Bobbi Brown and MAC. The company board now includes her son Leonard, his son William (the current executive chairman) and Estee’s granddaughters Aerin and Jane, both of whom have spent their careers working for the firm. The Lauder family together controls 77% of the company’s voting power. Estee Lauder’s son Ronald, who is also the former U.S. ambassador to Austria and served as chairman of the cosmetics company, has recently spent time advocating for Jewish rights in the U.S. Congress and speaking out against antisemitism. Both Ronald and Leonard have also made names for themselves as impressive art collectors.

No. 11 Newhouse — $18 Billion

Brothers Samuel (“Si”) and Donald Newhouse run Advance Publications. In March, the company agreed to sell its majority stake in Bright House Networks to Charter Communications for $10.4 billion. Bright House is a cable TV and Internet service provider with customers in Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and California. The deal is awaiting shareholder and regulatory approval and is expected to close by the end of the year. The brothers also own Conde Nast, publisher of magazines such as The New Yorker and Vanity Fair; the nation’s largest privately-held newspaper chain; and a stake in Discovery Communications, the operator of cable and satellite TV networks such as the Discovery Channel and TLC. Si and Donald inherited the company from their father, Sam Newhouse (d. 1979), who started out with one newspaper in New Jersey. Si reportedly stepped down from managing the magazine side of the business in 2011, but remains chairman. Donald oversees the newspaper division, which has over 30 editions including The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The Plains Dealer in Cleveland. Donald’s son, Steven, is responsible for day-to-day management of the newspapers.

No. 10: Duncan — $22.4 Billion

Born poor in rural Texas, Dan Duncan was raised by his grandmother from age 7 on, following the death of his mother and brother. He eventually struck it rich in oil and gas pipelines. When Duncan died in 2010 at age 77, he left his nearly $10 billion estate to his four children: Randa Duncan Williams, Milane Frantz, Dannine Duncan Avara and Scott Duncan, all of whom got equal shares. The family fortune has since more than doubled, thanks to generous dividend payouts and a rise in the stock price of pipeline behemoth Enterprise Products Partners. Randa, the eldest, is chairman of the board. Scott, 32, is the youngest American billionaire to have inherited his wealth.

No. 9: Johnson (Edward)– $26 Billion

The Johnson family owns 49% of money manager Fidelity, the second largest mutual fund company in the U.S. (behind Vanguard) with $1.8 trillion in assets under management. Edward C. Johnson II (d. 1984) founded the Boston-based company in 1946. His son, Edward “Ned” Johnson III, ran the company from 1977 until last year when he stepped down as CEO. He remains chairman of the board. Ned’s daughter Abigail replaced him as Fidelity CEO in October 2014. Ned’s son Edward Johnson IV runs a family-owned real estate company. Another daughter Elizabeth is not involved at Fidelity.

No. 8: Johnson (S.C.) — $28.8 Billion

The Wisconsin family created many of the cleaning products in American homes including Ziploc, Windex, Glade and Shout. The company founder, S.C. Johnson, for whom the business is named, started a parquet flooring company in 1886 and developed a floor wax for his customers two years later. His son Herbert Fisk Johnson, who ran it until his death in 1928, died without a will, leading to a family struggle over the inheritance. Ownership of SC Johnson was divided 60-40 between his two children, Herbert Fisk Jr. and Henrietta Johnson Louis. Their descendants still own 100% of the $9.6 billion (estimated sales) company. Today, Herbert Fisk III, great-great grandson of the founder is CEO.

No. 7: Pritzker — $30 Billion

Powerful Chicago family is best known for creating Hyatt Hotels. The family spent the 2000s feuding over trusts and eventually divvied up the fortune. Penny is Commerce Secretary; Thomas chairs Hyatt Hotels. Gigi is a movie producer (Draft Day); John owns boutique hotel group Commune Hotels; brothers Anthony and JB run Pritzker Group investment firm; Karen and her husband Michael are active investors. Liesel Pritzker Simmons, who sued her father and the Pritzker family in 2003 (the family settled), is an impact investor. Altogether there are 11 individual billionaire members of the family. Roots of the fortune date to A.N. Pritzker (d. 1986), who with his sons Jay and Robert created Hyatt Hotels and invested in holdings like industrial conglomerate Marmon Group, now owned by Berkshire Hathaway.

No. 6: Hearst — $32 Billion

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was largely based on publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who first placed his name on the masthead of the San Francisco Examiner as “Proprietor” in 1887. His son, William Randolph Hearst Jr., became a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. His grandson William R. Hearst III now chairs the modern day Hearst media empire, which includes 49 newspapers, nearly 340 magazines around the globe and valuable stakes in cable TV channels ESPN, Lifetime and A&E. Two years into the leadership of CEO Steven Swartz, the Hearst Corporation continues to grow, delivering record revenues north of $10 billion, while investing in up-and-coming media outlets like Vice and BuzzFeed. Over the years, the family had its fair share of scandals, from the kidnapping of Patty Hearst by a guerrilla group in the 1970s, to a nasty divorce between the late John R. “Bunky” Hearst Jr. and his wife Barbara that revealed some of the inner workings of the family’s secretive trust.

No. 5: Cox — $34.5 billion

The Cox fortune dates to 1898, when James M. Cox purchased the Dayton Evening News. The company subsequently expanded to TV, radio and more: Cox Enterprises includes Cox Communications (cable TV, broadband) and Cox Media Group (newspapers, TV, radio stations), and the company is now adding to its automotive assets. In June 2015 it announced a $4 billion deal to acquire publicly traded DealerTrack, a maker of software for car dealerships. Through Cox Enterprises, the family already owns, Kelley Blue Book and Manheim car auctions. The fortune is divided between James Cox’s daughter, Anne Cox Chambers, and his grandchildren, James Kennedy and Blair Parry-Okeden; Kennedy chairs Cox Enterprises and served as its CEO from 1988 to 2008.

No. 4: Cargill-MacMillan — $45 Billion

The Cargill-MacMillan clan includes 14 billionaires, more than any other family in the world. Along with several other cousins, they own 88% of Cargill Inc., America’s largest private company. The $128 billion (revenues) agribusiness giant sells food, processes crops, trades commodities, sources ingredients and provides financial risk management. It all started with W.W. Cargill, the son of a Scottish sea captain, who founded the company as a small grain storage business in 1865 at the close of the American Civil War. He got rich as railroads expanded westward at the end of the century, turning the Great Plains into America’s bread basket. Cargill’s son-in-law, John MacMillan, took over the business in 1909. The final member of the family to serve as CEO, Whitney MacMillan, stepped down in 1995. Today only six members of the family sit on Cargill’s 17-person board, thanks to an agreement between family factions in the mid-1990s. The family leaves 80% of the company’s net income inside the company for reinvestment each year.

No. 3: Mars — $80 billion

Forrest Jr., Jacqueline and John own 100% of Mars, the largest candy company in the world with $33 billion in sales. The siblings, who sit on the board but have no daily role, inherited the company in 1999 when their father Forrest Sr. died. Their grandfather Frank began selling candy from his Tacoma, Washington kitchen in 1911. Their father joined the company in 1929, around the same time the company invented the malt-flavored nougat that became the basis of Milky Way and Snickers. The company later created M&Ms, over 400 million of which are produced in the U.S. each day. Mars also makes Uncle Ben’s rice and owns pet food brands Pedigree and Whiskas. Jacqueline is a trustee of the U.S. Equestrian Team and sits on the board of directors of the National Sporting Library and Fine Art Museum. Forrest is interested in historical preservation and is a trustee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. John and his wife Adrienne are noted supporters of the Fred W. Smith National Library for the Study of George Washington at Mount Vernon.

No. 2: Koch — $86 Billion

A bitter split led brothers William and Frederick Koch to sell out of the Koch family business – started with refineries by their father, Fred Sr., in the 1930s — for a reported $700 million in 1983. That left the two other siblings, Charles and David, in charge of expanding their conglomerate, Koch Industries, now the nation’s second largest private company (behind Cargill) with more than $100 billion in sales. Feeling shortchanged, William and Frederick spent more than a decade suing for more, but today are worth a fraction of their more powerful siblings, who both rank among the nation’s top 10 richest individuals. Charles and David plan to be big spenders in the 2016 elections through their various conservative organizations. Charles told USA Today in April he and his 450 wealthy followers plan to spend $300 million on the elections over the next two years.

No. 1: Walton — $149 Billion

The Walton family has ironclad control over the world’s largest retailer: Together, six of the Waltons own nearly 54% of the shares. Rob Walton stepped down in June as chairman of the company, a position he held for 23 years. His son-in-law Greg Penner succeeded him. Though often embroiled in controversy — Mexican bribery scandals and criticisms over employee pay have grabbed headlines over the past year — Walmart’s sales haven’t suffered: it generated $486 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2015 . The company has come a long way since it was started by Sam Walton (d. 1992) and his brother James “Bud” (d. 1995) in a small Arkansas town in 1962. The fortune they left behind is now held by Sam’s three living children and daughter-in-law, and Bud’s two daughters.

Written by Kerry A. Dolan of Forbes

(Source: Forbes)

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