America was traditionally thought of as the land of opportunity, the ‘American Dream’ promising anyone with a great idea and some luck the possibility of making it big and making big bucks. The reality, of course, isn’t quite as optimistic. Indeed, more recently, America has become known less for the Dream and more for the Dilemma – that dilemma being, how to close the wage gap? We’re constantly reminded that the top 1% in America own around a third of the country’s entire wealth, and upwards mobility – where those from a lower socioeconomic class move to a higher socioeconomic class in their lifetime – is distressingly rare.
Of course, there are many ways to make money in America, but when it comes down to it, the richest families are the ones who’ve been that way for a long while. They’re the lucky few who hold a monopoly over the basic necessities and services that people use and need on a regular basis, and they’re the powerful families who’ve contributed to America being depicted, lately, as an oligarchy. The following are ten families who make up a significant part of that 1% – they’re the wealthiest billionaire families in the United States behind the household names we all know.
10. The Busch Family: Budweiser
How many millions of bottles and cans of Budweiser beer are consumed every year at family gatherings, frat parties, barbecues and restaurants all over America? Well, for all those happy and tipsy moments, we can thank Adolphus Busch, the man who brewed his first batch of Budweiser in 1876. This beer was sold all over the country until Prohibition, and when that was repealed by President Roosevelt, Budweiser beer came back as strong as ever. The Busch family still maintains majority ownership, and their net worth, according to Forbes, is $13 billion.
9. Dorrance Family: Campbell Soup Empire
Go to any grocery store and supermarket around the country, and you’re sure to find rows and rows of Campbell canned soups in the soup aisle. The man behind Campbell soup is John T. Dorrance, the brilliant mind who discovered the formula for making condensed soup in 1897. The company is presently a global juggernaut with over $8 billion in total revenues. The Campbell soup company also owns other culinary brands like Prego and Pepperidge farm. Presently, the Dorrance family still has ownership of the company and they’re worth $12.8 billion.
8. Schoen Family: U-Haul
Most of us have probably used a U-haul truck one time or another – let’s admit it, moving and relocating are part and parcel of the American dynamic. The family behind U-Haul trucks is the Schoen family, and the patriarch of the family is Leonard Shoen who began the business in 1945. This is one of those family sagas that’s seen a lot of movie-worthy drama – everything from boardroom coups to murder accusations. But through it all, the family still maintains ownership of the company and the Shoen clan currently has a net worth of $6.8 billion.
7. The France Family – Nascar
NASCAR ranks right up there with baseball and football (American Football) as one of the favorite American pastimes. It’s one of those spectator activities that full families love to enjoy together and huge corporate sponsors are constantly clamoring to have their brands associated with. The first family of NASCAR is the France family. The company was started in 1948 by Bill France Sr. and it’s now run by his grandson Brian France. Presently, the hugely successful stock car racing family is worth $5 billion.
6. The Walton Family: Walmart
Imagine how it would feel if your family’s net worth was $152 billion. It’s almost impossible for any of us to even fathom that amount of money. Well, that’s the baffling wealth of the Walton family. The Waltons are the family that own Walmart, America’s largest chain of discount department stores. Although this company gets more than its fair share of negative press stemming mainly from how they treat and pay their employees, the company still continues to grow and expand rapidly. The current chairman of the global juggernaut is Rob Walton, the first son of Sam Walton who is the original founder of the company.
5. The Mars Family: Snickers, Milky Way, M&Ms
Chances are that if you’ve ever bought yourself a Milky Way, Snickers Bar or pack of M&Ms, then you’ve contributed to the amazing wealth of this billionaire family. The company was founded all the way back in 1911, and according to Forbes, it now has a net worth of $60 billion dollars. The company was founded by Franks Mars in Tacoma, Washington and is now owned by his grandchildren Jacqueline, John and Forrest Mars Jr. It’s the largest candy company in the world, and the Mars company also makes Uncle Ben’s rice and owns the successful pet food companies Pedigree and Whiskas.
4. The Hearst Family: Cosmopolitan, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar Magazines
The media industry has never been more powerful and influential. Content and information are everything, especially in the modern era of the internet and instant social media. One of the biggest media conglomerates in existence is the Hearst Empire: It was officially minted in 1887 by William Randolph Hearst and the company presently owns 49 newspapers, almost 350 magazines and is heavily invested in cable channels like ESPN, Lifetime and A&E. According to Forbes, the Hearst family is worth $35 billion dollars.
3. The S.C. Johnson Family – Ziploc, Drano, Raid
Every year, boatloads of money are made by consumer goods companies who produce the basic necessities American families use every day. S.C. Johnson is one of the most well-known companies in the United States, known for producing useful products like Ziploc bags, Windex, Drano and Raid. The company was started in Wisconsin in 1886, and presently, according to Forbes, the founding family is worth $25.5 billion.
2. Johnson & Johnson Family – Tylenol, Visine, Neutrogena, NY Jets
If you’ve ever used a first aid kit, dental floss or Tylenol, then you’re already familiar with the global consumer goods giant, Johnson & Johnson. This mammoth company was founded by Robert Wood Johnson in 1886. Robert’s son, Robert Wood Johnson II, took over the company in 1932, and he’s the skilled businessman who really made Johnson & Johnson into what it is today. The company’s products are highly diversified, but the majority of them are related to the health and wellness category. The Johnson family is now worth $5.9 billion and one of the heirs, Woody Johnson, is the owner of the New York Jets.
1. The Fisher Family: The Gap
Where do we all go when we need a basic pair of jeans or khakis that aren’t going to break the bank, but are stylish and presentable enough for both casual and semi-formal affairs? The answer to that question is often the retail chain The Gap. If you live in America, you have most likely been inside a Gap store – it seems like there’s one in every mall. The Gap was started by a Real Estate developer named Donald Fisher in 1969. It currently has 3,500 stores globally and the company also owns other sister brands like Old Navy and Banana Republic. The Fisher family still owns about 41% of the company and they’re worth $10.1 billion.