Family Fortune: The 20 Richest Families in America

National Money

We’re in the midst of a revolution. The ‘start-up’ generation of self-made billionaires – entrepreneurs, investors and businessmen – is usurping the once rock-solid spot of names like Rockefeller in the dazzling roll call of “wealthiest families”.

The most iconic ‘old money’ families in American history face the challenge of building on their inherited fortune and maintaining the family’s wealth for decades and even centuries to come. All the while, ‘new money’ families are making themselves known.

In this year’s wealthiest families list, the first and second generation wealthy are contending with the old money heirs and heiresses. These new money families own and operate multi-billion dollar corporations started by a parent, uncle or someone else just one generation ahead. Some of the families on our list are likely to be familiar, while others have come from apparent obscurity to make a splash on the rich list.

These families come from a wide variety of disciplines and industries. Wealth is becoming diversified and opportunities for affluence are no longer reserved to a few exclusive industries. As always with the advent of a new “billionaire list”, we see some families making their first appearance; with the unpredictability of our ever-changing economic landscape, who knows whether they’ll make a reappearance on next year’s tally? Just as old money is no longer a sure thing, new money can be transient.

We’ve computed the total net worth of a family by adding the net worth of the individual family members who form part of a family trust, as well as familial inheritors, shareholders of the family-owned business, and other relatives and direct descendants that contribute to the family’s net worth. It should be noted that this list is an informed estimate of a family’s net worth, and as such it hasn’t been verified by the family’s representatives.

20. Stryker Family: $6.4 billion

 


The Stryker family inherited their fortune from Homer Stryker. He was the founder of Stryker Corp. and the inventor of the mobile hospital bed. Though Homer’s grandchildren still maintain shares in the company, only Ronda Stryker is active in the company as a board member. Her two other siblings are also members of the billionaire’s club despite their lack of direct involvement with the company. Stryker Corp. earned an estimated $8.66 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year.


19. Bechtel Family: $6.8 billion

Riley Bechtel, centre


The Bechtel family founded the Bechtel Corporation in 1898. It’s currently the fourth largest privately owned corporation in the United States, with over 53,000 employees. The company boasts an impressive engineering and construction portfolio in the US and abroad that includes the Hoover Dam and the Hong Kong International Airport. The company was founded by Warren Bechtel and four generations of Bechtel successors have run the company since. Riley Bechtel, the great-grandson of the founder is the current CEO of the company.


18. Reyes Family: $7 billion


The Reyes family is one of the youngest families to make this list. The Reyes Beverage Group was started in 1976 after the family bought a small Schlitz beer distributorship company in South Carolina. The family business soon grew into one of the biggest food and beverage distributor in the US, Canada and South America. Reyes Holdings is currently co-run by J Christopher Reyes and his brother Jude. The two founded the company with their father and is the first-generation of Reyes’ who made this list.Reyes Holdings had an estimated $15 billion in revenues in the previous fiscal year.


17. Hearst Family: $8 billion

Amanda Hearst


The legacy of the Hearst family began in 1880 when George Hearst bought the San Francisco Daily Examiner and started a publishing empire. Throughout the past century, the family has maintained its reputation as one of the world’s leading media conglomerates, despite several scandals and controversies. The Hearst Company has a stake in over 300 magazines worldwide, and owns major cable networks including ESPN Inc. The many heirs and heiresses of George Hearst and his son William Randolph Hearst are common fixtures in the Hearst Foundation’s board of trustees. One of the most well-known members of the Hearst family, however, earned her status for reasons other than wealth; Patricia Hearst Shaw, a third generation Shaw, was once kidnapped and allegedly brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army with whom she became involved in extensive illegal activities. She was imprisoned for two years before President Carter coordinated her release.


16. Meijer Family: $8.3 billion

Hank and Doug Meijer


The Meijer Inc. supermarket chain was founded in Michigan in 1934, by Dutch immigrant Hendrik Meijer. A barber by trade, Hendrik established the company during the Great Depression and enlisted his teenage son, Frederik to work for him. As of  2013 the company has its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan and boasts 200 stores and 177 gas stations throughout America. Frederik Meijer passed away in 2011 and left his sons, Doug and Hank in charge of the family business.


15. Butt Family: $8.5 billion

 


The Butt family has owned the HE Butt (HEB) Grocery chain since its founding in 1905. The company largely operates in Texas, with some stores in Northern Mexico. The family business – started by Florence Butt – was inherited by Howard Edward Butt in 1919 and was taken over by his son Charles in 1971. In 2012, the company listed $18 billion in revenue, making it one of the most profitable privately owned companies in Texas and in the U.S.


14. Bass Family: $8.8 billion

 


The Bass family also have a place among the Texas elite. The four Bass brothers inherited their fortune and business from Sid W. Richardson, their bachelor uncle. Sid and a business partner founded several successful oil companies in the 1930s, as well as other energy companies such as the Sid Richardson Carbon Company. Aside from running the Bass Operating company, the brothers are also active in philanthropy and art patronage.


13. Johnson Family (Franklin Resources): $11.2 billion

 


The Johnson family runs the family-owned asset management firm Franklin Resources Inc. The company was founded in New York in 1947, by Rupert Johnson Sr. By 1957, his son Charles Bartlett Johnson took over the company and became its chairman until 2003. Charles is also the majority owner of the MLB team of San Francisco.His son Gregory Johnson is now the president and CEO of Franklin Resources. The company currently manages over $815 billion in assets and is the fifth-largest asset management group in the country.


12. Lauder Family: $11.3 billion

 


Estée Lauder is one of the most recognizable names in the cosmetics industry and her two sons, Ronald and Leonard look set on keeping it that way. The Lauder clan is deeply entrenched in the family business and close relatives have some key positions in the company. The business dates back to New York in 1946, and there are currently four billionaire members of the primary Lauder family branch. Jane Lauder – Estée’s granddaughter – is this year’s youngest female billionaire.


11. Taylor Family: $11.4 billion


Enterprise Rent-A-Car was established in 1957 in St. Louis, Missouri. Jack Crawford Taylor founded Enterprise Holdings and was the company’s executive chairman until the 1980s when he handed over the reins to his son, Andy. Enterprise Holdings earned $13.5 billion in 2012 and currently has over 74,000 employees worldwide.


10. Johnson Family (S.C Johnson): $12 billion


This Johnson family made their fortune through a global manufacturer of household products, S.C Johnson & Son Inc. The company was established by Samuel Curtis Jackson Sr. in 1886, making S.C Johnson one of the most long-standing successful family-owned companies in the world. Since its founding, four generations of successors have run the company and it’s currently being headed by Herbert Fisk Johnson III. S.C Johnson had $9.4 billion in revenue in 2012.


9. Ziff Family: $13.8 billion


The Ziff family empire began in 1927 when William B. Ziff Sr. and Bernard G. Davis.  created the Ziff Davis publishing company. In 1953 William Ziff Jr. took over the company and went on to sell 95% of the family business in 1984. His three sons inherited his fortune when he died in 1994, and they reinvested their inheritance through the Ziff Brothers Investments firm which they founded. All three brothers are worth over $4 billion each.


8. Cargill/MacMillan Family: $15.4 billion

 


Founded in 1865, international food conglomerate Cargill has remained as one of the most dominant private companies in the US. The Cargill/MacMillan family descendants still own 85% of the company, making it one of the most successful family-owned companies in the history of the US. Six Cargill descendants of W.W Cargill, the company’s founder, own the majority of shares in the $133 billion empire.


7. Newhouse Family: $17.1 billion


The Newhouse family owns Advance Publications Inc. – the largest privately owned newspaper chain in the country. The family business is run by Samuel Newhouse Jr. – chairman and CEO – and Donald Newhouse, the company president. Included in the Advance Publications outfit is the vast Condé Nast portfolio as well as a 45% stake in Discovery Communications which owns the Discovery Channel and TLC.


6. Cox Family: $20.2 billion


Anne Cox Chambers is one of the richest women in the US and is the largest stakeholder in the massive media conglomerate Cox Enterprises. Anne Cox Chambers alone owns 66% of the family’s substantial $20.2 billion net worth. Cox Enterprises is one of the few remaining large family-owned companies in media. James Cox Kennedy, Anne’s nephew and the current chairman of Cox Enterprises, has a 25% stake in the company. Cox Enterprises earned an estimated $14.7 billion in 2012 and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the US.


5. Pritzker Family: $18.7

Karen Pritzker, left


The Hyatt Hotel chain is a fixture of the global hotel market and the hospitality industry, so it comes as no surprise that the family behind the brand is worth billions of dollars. There are currently eight Pritzker family members worth at least $1 billion each and this impressive group is led by Karen Pritzker, worth $3.3 billion. The family empire was established in 1953 with the acquisition of the Marmon Group. The Hyatt House hotel was purchased in 1957.


4. Duncan Family: $22 billion


The Duncan family has been featuring in Houston’s rich lists since its patriarch, Dan Duncan, founded Enterprise Products. The company installs crude oil and natural gas pipelines throughout the US and has over 95,800 miles in installed pipes in assets. Dan Duncan’s four children share his vast inheritance. His eldest daughter, Randa Duncan Williams, acts as a non-executive chairman of the board of Enterprise Products and her net worth is $5.5 billion as of September 2013.


3. Mars Family: $61.5 billion


Jacqueline, John and Forrest Jr. Mars are the majority shareholders of Mars Inc., the largest candy producer and distributor in the world. The three siblings are members of the company’s board of directors. Aside from iconic candies, the company also owns Whiskas, Pedigree and the Wrigley Company. The siblings are the grandchildren of Mars Inc. founder Frank Mars who began the candy empire in 1911. The eldest, Forrest Jr., has an estimated net worth of $20.5 billion.


2. Koch Family: $72 billion


The massive Koch family fortune is credited to Koch Industries – a company that specializes in the manufacturing of industrial equipment, including apparatus for refining and pollution control. The conglomerate also covers business management and financial planning. Charles G. Koch is the company’s current CEO and has a net worth of $36 billion. He’s one of four sons of Fred C. Koch, the company’s founder. During the ’80s and ’90s, the four brothers battled each other in court for their interests in the company.


1. Walton Family: $93 billion


The first Wal-Mart opened in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Just over 50 years later the Walton family assets include over 10,000 stores in 27 countries. For some  perspective on the wealth of the Walton family: The combined net worth of 48.8 million low income households matches the worth of just six billionaire members of the Walton family. Christy Walton alone is worth $35.4 billion and is the richest woman in the world. Christy is the daughter-in-law of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton.