Samuel Moore “Sam” Walton’s story is the epitome of the American dream. In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton took over the management of a variety store at the young age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus money he’d saved while in the army, he purchased a Ben Franklin store in Newport, Arkansas. He, and his brother, Bud, created a chain of stores that eventually became known as Wal-Mart.
The Wal-Mart chain gets a lot of flak for being a giant and tearing down the little guy, but the original plan for Wal-Mart was in fact the opposite. When Walton opened Wal-Mart, it was his goal to sell American-made products to support American manufacturers. He located his stores in small towns, not big cities, and for the most part, the operation was little more than a small chain of stores spread throughout the Midwest and other parts of the country.
Of course, his little dream has turned into something much, much bigger. Today, Walmart employs 2.2 million associates globally and at the end of 2013, they had net sales of $466.1 billion and paid out $13 billion to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases.
But where are the Waltons now? Well, both Sam and Bud passed away in the 1990s, but their heirs and heiresses live on – and they’re richer than ever. In fact, the Walmart heirs own more wealth than 40% of the American population combined.
But who are these rich heirs and heiresses, and how are they spending the immense fortune in their control?
6. Nancy Walton Laurie – $4.3 billion
Nancy Walton Laurie is the daughter of Bud Walton, and both she and her sister became billionaires when their father died in 1995. Nancy received nearly $70 million in dividends in 2013 alone. She’s founded the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet in New York, and started the Columbia Performing Arts Center dance school in Columbia, MO. She and her husband, Bill, used to own the St. Louis Blues (NHL), but sold the franchise in 2005. They have one daughter, Elizabeth Paige Laurie, who was tied to a scandal in 2004 after her college roommate came out with the story that Paige had paid her $20,000 over four years to do Paige’s homework for her. Paige surrendered her degree to the University of Southern California in 2005. But that wasn’t all – her parents had donated $25 million to the University of Missouri-Columbia for the naming rights of the new basketball arena, and were going to name it the Paige Sports Arena (even though neither her parents nor Paige attended school at UMC). After the news broke about the cheating scandal, the parents relinquished naming rights of the facility – now simply called the Mizzou Arena.
5. Ann Walton Kroenke – $5 billion
Ann Walton Kroenke is the daughter of Bud Walton, the niece of Sam Walton, and the wife of a billionaire in his own right, Stan Kroenke. While husband Stan made his fortune building shopping centers across the U.S (mainly anchored by, you guessed it, Wal-Mart), Ann received nearly $80 million in dividends in 2013. Stan is also part-owner of the Colorado Crush (Arena Football League), and majority owner of the St. Louis Rams (NFL), Arsenal F.C. (Premier League, English Football), Denver Nuggets (NBA), Colorado Avalanche (NHL), Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer), and Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse League). Stan and Ann have two kids: Josh who is President of both the Denver Nuggets and the Colorado Avalanche, and Whitney, who is a film producer and philanthropist. Ann Walton lives in Columbia, Missouri.
4. S. Robson Walton – $35.3 billion
Now we see a huge jump in net worth, but that’s because we’re getting to Sam Walton’s kids, where the serious money is to be had. Samuel (S.) Robson is the eldest son of Sam Walton and currently he is listed as the 14th richest person in the world with assets totaling about $35.3 billion. S. Robson is currently the company chairman and has been since 1992. He has been faced with his share of problems lately such as employees organizing protests against low wages in 15 cities across the United States. Also, news of a bribery scandal in Mexico surfaced, along with the deadly factory collapse in Bangladesh, that have added to his problems. But Walmart has remained strong throughout all of the issues, leaving S. Robson’s place on the World’s Richest list secure. He attended The College of Wooster and graduated from the University of Arkansas with a B.S in business administration. He later received his juris doctor degree from the Columbia University School of Law.
3. Alice Walton – $35.3 billion
Alice Walton and her brother, S. Robson, are pretty close when it comes to their net worth – Alice is considered the 13th richest person in the world. But in addition to that, Alice has also been recognized by Time Magazine for being one of the most influential people of 2013. She led the Walton Family Foundation’s development of Crystal Bridges, a museum of American Art and artists. Alice graduated from Trinity University with a B.A in Economics and Finance. Alice is also among a number of billionaires who formed a PAC to help raise funds for Hillary Clinton to run for the presidency in 2016, though there’s no official word that Clinton will in fact run. If she does, however, Hillary has a wealthy and powerful ally in Alice Walton. Alice is divorced and has no children.
2. Jim Walton – $35.7 billion
Jim was the youngest son of Sam Walton, and not only did he inherit a large share of wealth from Wal-Mart, he’s also the CEO of Arvest Bank, also owned by the Walton’s. The bank brought in $100 million in 2012, padding his pockets even more. Jim comes in as the 12th richest person in the world this year, slightly up from last year thanks to a gain in Wal-Mart shares last year. He and his wife Lynne have four children: Alice Proietti, Stuart Walton, Thomas Walton, and James Walton. They reside in Bentonville, Arkansas, where Walmart was founded.
1. Christy Walton – $37.8 billion
Christy Walton is once again this year the world’s richest woman, a title she’s held for 4 of the last 5 years. Christy isn’t a direct descendent of Sam Walton, but is instead the wife of one of Sam Walton’s sons, John Walton, a former Green Beret, who died in 2005, leaving her with the inheritance. On this year’s list of richest people released by Forbes, she comes in at number eight. But one thing that should be noted is that, not only is she the world’s richest woman, she’s also been ranked as the largest female philanthropist according to Conde Nast Portfolio magazine and The Giving Index. Between 2002 and 2006, she donated $3.5 million of her then estimated $16.3 billion net worth. Among others, Christy is a board member of The San Diego Natural History Museum as well as the San Diego Zoological Society, both recipients of her philanthropy. Christy lives a fairly private life in Jackson, Wyoming, and she has one son, Lukas Walton.