Walmart heirs to candy conglomerates: These are the 25 richest families in the US
The new film House of Gucci may be a sensational story of madness, glamour and greed, but you don’t need to look far to find equivalents here in the U.S.
The wealthiest dynasties in America have also seen many bitter battles over inheritance and power, though some have quietly risen to the ranks of the elite without too much media scrutiny.
Last year Forbes released a list of the richest families in the country, based on their estimated net worths.
Here are their stories, from retail giants to publishing powerhouses — and stick around to the end to learn how to make your own family a little richer.
25. Gallo family
E. & J. Gallo Winery / Glassdoor
Net worth: $12.4 billion
The dynasty responsible for Gallo wines began with a tragic story.
Italian immigrant Joseph Gallo set up an illegal but successful wine business during Prohibition, but on the eve of the repeal, he and his wife were both found dead at their farm. After their parents’ death, sons Ernest and Julio established a legal business in 1933.
E&J Gallo Winery, a global leader in the wine industry, today is run by their descendants.
The company recently completed the acquisition of more than 30 wine brands from Constellation Brands, including Arbor Mist, Black Box and Wild Horse.
24. Rollins family
University of Tennessee at Chattanooga / YouTube
Net worth: $13.1 billion
This family made its fortune through pest control and owns Orkin — the biggest pest control company by revenue in North America.
O. Wayne Rollins and John Rollins originally founded Rollins Broadcasting, a radio and TV business, in the 1940s, but the brothers kept expanding into other sectors and later purchased Orkin for $62 million in 1964.
Gary Rollins, Wayne’s son, presides over the family business as CEO and chairman. The family now owns about 53% of Rollins Inc., along with stakes in oil-and-gas company RPC Inc. and boat dealer Marine Products Corp.
A feud over the family trust funds was settled in 2019 — four of Wayne’s grandchildren sued their father Gary and uncle Randall over their control.
23. Goldman family
Michael Vadon / Flickr
Net worth: $13.2 billion
One of the richest families in real estate, the Goldman clan owns more than 700 properties across the country as well as stakes in the World Trade Center developments in lower Manhattan, says Forbes.
Sol Goldman started his real estate business, Solil Management (named for Sol and his wife Lillian), by purchasing foreclosed properties on the cheap in NYC in the 1950s. Upon his death in 1987, Sol was New York’s largest private landlord.
His daughter Jane currently helms the company, while son Lloyd is in charge of property management firm BLDG Management. Jane and three of her siblings each own a quarter stake in Solil.
Nowadays, you don’t need to be a billionaire to invest in real estate. You can kickstart a portfolio of commercial and residential properties with as little as $100.
22. Stryker family
MLive / YouTube
Net worth: $13.2 billion
Homer Stryker, an orthopedic surgeon from Kalamazoo, Michigan, decided to invent his own medical devices to meet his patients’ needs — one of them is the mobile hospital bed — and started his own business to produce them in 1941.
His three grandchildren inherited an estimated 13% stake in the company, and granddaughter Ronda Stryker has sat on the board of directors since 1984.
Stryker, now a global leader in medical technologies, had sales of $14.9 billion in 2019, says Forbes. The company also launched a low-cost Emergency Relief Bed last year to help support frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
21. Cathy family
Dan T. Cathy / YouTube
Net worth: $14.2 billion
S. Truett Cathy opened the Atlanta diner Dwarf Grill (later renamed The Dwarf House) in 1946. Following its success, he launched Chick-fil-A in 1967, and it’s become one of America’s biggest quick-service chicken restaurants.
Today, sons Dan and Bubba Cathy lead and own the fast food franchise, which has more than 2,500 outlets in the U.S. Dan serves as chairman and CEO, while Bubba is executive vice president.
Daughter Trudy also works for the family business — she became an operator of a Chick-fil-A in Birmingham, Alabama, after finishing her freshman year at Samford University, and currently serves as Ambassador. Dan’s son, Andrew, serves as executive vice president of operations.
19 (tie). Ziff family
Net worth: $15 billion
Dirk, Robert and Daniel Ziff are heirs to media conglomerate Ziff Davis LLC, which was originally founded by their grandfather, William Bernard Ziff Sr., as a publishing company in 1927.
William B. Sr.’s son William B. Jr. sold the publisher to Forstmann, Little & Company for $1.4 billion in 1994, and his three sons used the funds to form Ziff Brothers Investments and hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management.
Ziff Brothers closed in 2014, and Och-Ziff was rebranded as Sculptor Capital Management.
Dirk is also the owner of World Surf League, an organization for professional surfers.
19 (tie). Dorrance family
Mike Mozart / Flickr
Net worth: $15 billion
John T. Dorrance invented the process for making condensed soup in 1899 — and made his brand Campbell’s Soup a household name across the globe.
The Dorrance descendants are now one of the richest families in the U.S. They own about 41% of the company collectively, reported CNBC in 2018.
John’s granddaughter Mary Alice Malone, who is also president of horse-breeding farm Iron Spring Farm, owns the biggest stake in the soup empire at 17.7%. John’s grandson Bennett Dorrance holds a 15.4% stake in Campbell’s and also founded real estate development firm DMB Associates. Both siblings also serve on Campbell’s board of directors.
18. Hunt family
Carol M. Highsmith / Wikimedia Commons
Net worth: $15.5 billion
Arkansas cotton trader H.L. Hunt — who also inspired the character of J.R. Ewing on TV series Dallas — turned a $50 loan into a lucrative oil empire, and today his heirs are reaping the benefits.
His eldest children sold his Hunt Petroleum to XTO Energy in 2008 for $4.2 billion in cash and stock, says Forbes, but sons Ray Lee and W. Herbert still own Hunt Oil and Petro-Hunt, respectively. Ray’s son Hunter is CEO of Hunt Consolidated Energy.
His daughter Caroline founded (and then sold) Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, and son Lamar was credited with naming the Super Bowl.
Lamar’s children inherited the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, a stake in the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and real estate in Kansas City and Texas after his death.
If you need a loan to kickstart your own plans — whether you need $50 or $5,000 — now is a great time to get one while interest rates are historically low.
17. DuPont family
Michael Vi / Shutterstock.com
Net worth: $16 billion
There are around 4,000 heirs to chemical giant DuPont, which traces its origins all the way back to 1802. Only one, Eleuthere I. du Pont, still sits on the company’s board of directors today.
E.I. du Pont first founded the company as a gunpowder manufacturer, but it has since expanded to include clean technologies, consumer products and medical devices and materials. DuPont is also credited for inventing rayon, nylon and Kevlar.
In 2017, DuPont merged with competitor Dow Chemical but then split into three companies — DuPont, Dow and Corteva — just two years later.
16. Busch family
KMOV St. Louis / YouTube
Net worth: $17.6 billion
The Busch family is responsible for beer brands Budweiser and Bud Light. Adolphus Busch co-founded local brewery Anheuser-Busch with his father-in-law Eberhard Anheuser in the 1850s in St. Louis.
Although the family continued to pass down the business from generation to generation following Adolphus’ death, InBev purchased Anheuser-Busch in a hostile takeover in 2008 for $52 billion.
August Busch IV, who served as CEO at the time, was the last of the family to control the company.
Recently, MTV launched reality series The Busch Family Brewed, which follows the lives of Billy Busch Sr., his wife Christi and their seven children.
15. Butt family
Net worth: $17.8 billion
In 1905, Florence Butt opened the C.C. Butt Grocery Store in Kerrville, Texas, with just $60. Over a century later, H-E-B is celebrated as one of America’s top grocery chains.
Florence’s son, Howard, took over the company in the 1920s and expanded it across Texas, while his son, Charles (who used to bag groceries for customers at the age of 8), succeeded him in 1971.
Charles is still CEO and chairman, with a majority stake in the company, and his two siblings and nephews also own stakes.
14. Marshall family
Celebrity Net Worth / YouTube
Net worth: $18.5 billion
The Marshalls get their money from Koch Industries — J. Howard Marshall II was a business partner of founder Fred C. Koch and owned an estimated 16% stake in the company.
His stock passed to son E. Pierce Marshall and now sits in trusts for E. Pierce’s wife, sons and other family members. Elaine serves on the board of Koch Industries, while E. Pierce Jr. helms investment firm Elevage Capital Management.
Bloomberg reported in 2012 that Elaine owned a 15% stake in the business, making her one of the richest women in the U.S., worth $12.7 billion, but the heiress told the Dallas Morning News that the valuation was “ridiculous.”
13. Brown family
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce / YouTube
Net worth: $20.4 billion
Brown-Forman Corp. — the Kentucky-based spirits and wine producer that gave us Jack Daniel’s and Finlandia — has been around since 1870.
Pharmaceutical salesman George Garvin Brown began a whiskey business with $5,500 in savings and borrowed money and partnered with his accountant, George Forman. Upon Forman’s death, Brown bought out his shares.
Today, the Brown brood owns about half of the company. George Garvin Brown IV, a 5th-generation family member, recently stepped down from the board after 15 years of service.
Campbell P. Brown, who used to be president and managing director of the Old Forester bourbon brand, remains chair, and Marshall B. Farrer serves as senior vice president, president of Europe.
12. Hearst family
FORA.tv / YouTube
Net worth: $21 billion
The Hearst Corp. began with 23-year-old William Randolph Hearst leading the San Francisco Examiner back in 1887. Today, the media conglomerate owns more than 360 businesses in publishing, television, radio, financial and medical services and transportation assets.
Among its brands are the cable TV networks A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime and ESPN, and the popular magazines Cosmopolitan, ELLE and Men’s Health and newspapers Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle.
Hearst’s grandson and heir, William R. Hearst III, serves as chairman of the board. He is also president of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and director of the Hearst Foundations. He also worked for the San Francisco Examiner and Los Angeles Herald Examiner.
11. Duncan family
Science History Institute / Wikimedia Commons
Net worth: $22 billion
Dan Duncan founded oil pipeline giant Enterprise Products Partners in 1968 and was worth $9 billion upon his death in 2010, reports Forbes.
His children Randa Duncan Williams, Milane Frantz, Dannine Duncan Avara and Scott Duncan inherited his $10 billion estate, and their combined wealth has doubled since then; each heir has a net worth of more than $5 billion today.
Randa joined the family business in 1994, became president and CEO of Enterprise Products in 2001 and has served as chairman of the board since 2013. She also owns Austin-based magazine Texas Monthly.
10. Newhouse family
syracuse.com / YouTube
Net worth: $30 billion
The Newhouses inherited Advance Publications, the publishing company that owns Condé Nast Publications — responsible for Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair and other publications — and has stakes in Discovery Communications and Reddit.
Samuel Irving (S.I.) Newhouse began the business in 1922, and his sons Samuel and Donald took over after his death in 1979. Samuel Jr. ran its magazine division while Donald headed the newspaper and television segment.
Samuel Jr. passed away in 2017, but Donald Newhouse remains owner and shares the title of co-president with his son Steven. Donald’s cousin Jonathan also serves as chairman of Condé Nast.
9. Pritzker family
Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy University of Michigan / Flickr
Net worth: $32.5 billion
These hotel heirs spent years battling over the family trusts left behind by Jay Pritzker, who, along with his brothers Robert and Donald and their father A.N. Pritzker, created Hyatt and invested in industrial holding company Marmon Group.
Former child actress Liesel Pritzker Simmons, who sued the Pritzker family in 2002 for allegedly robbing her and her brother of their inheritance, currently oversees venture capital company Blue Haven Initiative, which she co-founded with her husband.
Jay’s son, Thomas, serves as chairman of Hyatt, and Thomas’ son, Jason, sits on the company’s board. Donald’s son J.B. Pritzker became governor of Illinois in 2019 and daughter Penny served as Secretary of Commerce in the Obama administration.
8. Cox family
Net worth: $34.5 billion
This wealthy dynasty owns media and automotive company Cox Enterprises, founded by James M. Cox in 1898, when he borrowed $26,000 from his family and friends and purchased the Dayton Evening News (now the Dayton Daily News).
He later served as governor of Ohio and also stood for the presidential election with Franklin D. Roosevelt as his vice presidential running mate.
Third-generation family member Jim Kennedy, who served as CEO from 1988 to 2008, currently chairs the board, while great-grandson Alex C. Taylor now helms Cox.
Cox also sold a majority stake in its broadcast stations to Apollo Global Management for a reported $3 billion in 2019, adding to the family fortune.
7. Johnson family
David Rubenstein / YouTube
Net worth: $34.5 billion
The Johnsons own almost half of mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments, and the family business is now headed by Abigail Johnson, the granddaughter of Edward C. Johnson, who founded it in 1946.
Abigail, who used to work summers at Fidelity during college, joined full-time as an analyst in 1988 and took over from her father as CEO in 2014. Under her leadership, Fidelity began mining cryptocurrency and allows investors to trade Bitcoin and Ether.
Her brother Edward Johnson IV runs Pembroke Real Estate, owned by Fidelity’s parent company FMR.
6. S.C. Johnson family
Net worth: $37 billion
Cleaning products company S.C. Johnson, which owns the popular household brands Windex, Glade and Ziploc, began with salesman and manager S.C. Johnson, who bought a parquet flooring business in 1886.
Two years later, Johnson developed a new floor wax, and the business took off from there. The company has largely remained in the family, with three Johnson members on the board of directors.
Great-great-grandson H. Fisk Johnson currently leads the company, and his sister Helen Johnson-Leipold runs outdoor gear retailer Johnson Outdoors and chairs Johnson Financial.
5. Lauder family
The Estée Lauder Companies / YouTube
Net worth: $40 billion
The Lauder dynasty came into its money through cosmetics firm Estée Lauder, which all started with the eponymous creator, who developed skin creams from her kitchen and founded the business with her husband in 1946.
Estée Lauder Companies includes 29 brands, among them makeup brands MAC and Clinique and fragrance lines for Donna Karan and Michael Kors.
Six billionaire members of the family hold stakes in the business. Estée’s grandsons William and Ronald serve as executive chairman of Estée Lauder and chairman of Clinique Laboratories, respectively.
Ronald’s daughter Aerin is style and image director at Estée Lauder and founded her own luxury lifestyle brand, AERIN Beauty, in 2012. Her younger sister Jane is an executive vice president at Clinique.
4. Cargill-MacMillan family
Opportunitydotorg / YouTube
Net worth: $47 billion
America’s largest privately held corporation belongs to the Cargill-MacMillan clan and has been around since 1865, when W.W. Cargill started a grain storage business in Iowa.
Cargill is mainly known as a food conglomerate, but it also has holdings in pharmaceuticals, beauty and the personal care, transportation and industrial sectors.
Forbes says about 90 family members today collectively own 88% of the company — eight of whom are billionaires and six of whom sit on the board of directors. The last family member to run the business, however, was Whitney MacMillan, who retired in 1995.
With the global population poised to hit 10 billion by 2050, there will be no shortage of mouths to feed. That makes now a very good time to do like the Cargill-MacMillans do and invest in farmland, one of human civilization’s oldest and most reliable sources of wealth.
3. Mars family
Yale School of Management / YouTube
Net worth: $94 billion
Candy giant Mars has been expanding for a good century (it also includes a pet care/food division), and its founder’s grandchildren Jacqueline and John are two of the wealthiest people in the world, according to Forbes.
Frank Mars, who established the company when he started selling candy out of his kitchen, was the mastermind behind the Milky Way, while son Forrest came up with the beloved brand M&Ms and the processing method for Uncle Ben’s rice.
John and Jacqueline each own a third of Mars, while their deceased brother Forrest Jr.’s four daughters inherited the rest.
2. Koch family
Gavin Peters / Wikimedia Commons
Net worth: $100 billion
The Koch family owns the bulk of the Koch Industries fortune. Fred C. Koch founded the oil refinery firm that would eventually turn into Koch Industries in 1940.
Upon his death in 1967, his son Charles took over as CEO and chairman (he still holds that position today), while his other sons Frederick, David and William also inherited stakes.
Frederick and William were later ousted from the family business — their shares bought for about $800 million in 1983 — but David served as executive vice president until 2018, a year before he died.
Charles and David’s family each own 42% of the firm.
1. Walton family
Walmart / Flickr
Net worth: $247 billion
The Walmart heirs are the wealthiest in the country — about half of the retail mammoth’s stock is held by seven of Sam and James Walton’s descendants.
They include Sam’s three living children — Rob, Jim and Alice — his daughter-in-law Christy and her son Lukas, as well as James’ daughters, Ann and Nancy.
Rob served as chairman for more than two decades and still serves on the board, while his son-in-law, Greg Penner, replaced him as chairman in 2015.
The Waltons also own Arvest Bank, the largest and oldest bank in the state of Arkansas.
While the family made its fortune helping people “Save Money, Live Better,” you should know the big chains like Walmart don’t always offer the best deals. Try using a free browser add-on to automatically hunt for lower prices when you shop online.
How to boost your own net worth
Grustock / Shutterstock
You may not become a billionaire anytime soon, but you can still increase your personal fortune by using some of the same strategies these families use.
That means reducing your costs, maximizing your income and jumping on lucrative opportunities.
Land a better mortgage rate. Interest rates are historically low right now, but they may not stay that way for long. If you refinance, you may be able to save hundreds each month and thousands over the lifespan of your loan.
Consolidate high interest debt. With interest rates as bad as 20% — or even worse — credit cards make it easy to fall into debt. Combining all of your balances into one loan with a much lower interest rate can help you save hundreds and free yourself from debt faster.
Invest in a “fine” asset. Returns on fine art by the likes of Banksy and Andy Warhol have crushed the S&P 500 in recent years. That used to be an option only for the ultra rich, but with a new investing platform, you can invest in iconic artworks, too, just like Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates do.
Turn pennies into a portfolio. Even if you don’t have much money to spare, you can still earn big returns from today’s runaway stock market. A popular app will help you invest your “spare change” from everyday purchases.
This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.