For the sake of simplicity, we have limited our list of wealthiest families to those groups whose wealth has been passed to at least the second or third generation. As a result this list doesn’t include the world’s three richest individuals—Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bernard Arnault.
The Walton Family (Estimated Wealth: $245 billion)
Since the first Walmart store was opened by the founder Sam Walton in 1962, the company has grown to almost 12,000 stores worldwide earning the title of the world’s largest retailer.
With a bulk of their money coming from 50% shareholdings in Walmart, it’s no surprise that the descendants of Walmart founders Sam Walton (d. 1992) and Bud Walton (d. 1995) make up the wealthiest family in America.
In fact, Sam’s three living children Rob, Jim, and Alice Walton, are all in the top 10 richest billionaires list. While some work in the family business — Rob was the chairman of Walmart until 2015 and Jim served on the board before being replaced by his son Steuart in 2016 — others chose to pursue areas of personal passion (Alice is a patron of the arts, and owns an immense private art collection).
Interesting Fact: To better put into better perspective how immensely wealthy they are, the Walton siblings every year earn a combined $3.1 billion from dividends payouts alone! That’s $1.51 million an hour — or more precisely, $25,149 a minute.
The Koch Family (Estimated Wealth: $100 billion)
The Koch family fortune is rooted in an oil firm founded by Fred C. Koch. Following Fred’s death in 1967, the firm was inherited by his four sons—Frederick, Charles, David, and Bill.
However, due to a long-running family feud and boardroom battles, Frederick and Bill’s shares were bought out by the other two brothers for $700 million in 1983. Feeling shortchanged, the two spent the next 18 years suing for more.
The remaining brothers, Charles and David, went on to build their father’s oil refinery company, which as of 1967 had $250 million in yearly sales and 650 employees, into a corporate giant with $115 billion (2019) in annual revenue and a presence in 60 countries.
Under their leadership, the mega industrial conglomerate known as Koch Industries is now the second-largest private corporation in the United States.
Interesting Fact: David Koch walked away from a 1991 fiery plane crash in Los Angeles that killed 22 people aboard his flight, including the couple seated directly across from him in first class. In multiple interviews he mentioned how the near death experience changed him, prompted him to settle down and become a philanthropist.
The Lee Family (Estimated Wealth: $25 billion)
Started in 1938 by Lee Byung-Chull as a small trading company dealing with groceries, Samsung has grown to become a massive business conglomerate with over 80 independent companies under its umbrella.
Its flagship company, Samsung Electronics, is the largest producer of smartphones and memory chips in the world; even iPhones use Samsung chips.
This massive empire, run by the Lee family ( one of the wealthiest families in Asia), is considered the largest chaebol (a group of massive, family-run business dynasties that dominate South Korea’s economy and wields extraordinary influence over its politics).
Interesting Fact: The Lee family is slowly losing its firm grip on the business empire after the arrest and prosecution of the Samsung Group President, Lee Jay-Yong (Byung-Chull’s grandson). In 2017, he was found guilty of offering bribes to former South Korean President Park Guen-Hye. Soon after his release, he promised to bring to an end the dynastic control of Samsung.
The Ambanis(Estimated Wealth: $85 billion)
Reliance Industries (one of the largest companies in India with interests in refining, oil & gas, telecom, retail, and media) was founded by Dhirubhai Ambani in 1966 as a small textile manufacturer.
He built the company to global heights, and by the time he passed away in 2002, his net worth was $26 billion. His two sons Mukesh and Anil Ambani, took over the company. However, a bitter feud erupted between the brothers – often spilling into very public rows.
Their mother had to come in and brokered a truce. The solution was to split the family business, with Mukesh getting control of the oil, gas, petrochemicals, refining, and manufacturing parts of the business, while Anil got electricity, telecoms, and financial services.
Sadly Anil mismanaged and crumbled the businesses entrusted to him. On the other hand, his brother built his share of his father’s fortune to even greater heights and is currently the wealthiest man in Asia.
Interesting Fact: Mukesh’s home, a 27 storey building in Mumbai valued at $1.2 billion is the world's most valuable private residence and the world's second most valuable residential property, after Buckingham Palace.
The Mars Family (Estimated Wealth: $90 billion)
The Mars family owns Mars Inc., popularly known for M&Ms and Snickers. The company also runs a massive pet division that also sells pet food and provides pet care.
Siblings Jacqueline Mars and John Mars and their late brother Forrest Jr. (d. 2016) inherited stakes in the candy empire founded by their father Frank Mars in 1911. When Forest Jr passed away, his four daughters inherited his stake in the company.
The combined private fortune of the 6 family members is estimated at around $90billion, making them one of the richest families in the world. Despite being extremely wealthy, very little is known about the family, given that they are very press-shy and avoid the limelight as much as possible.
Interesting Fact: In 2016, Mars Inc made news when it promised to remove all artificial dyes from their food. Products. However five years later, the company stated that it will not remove all artificial colors from its entire U.S. portfolio, contrasting the 2016 plan to do so.
The Thomson Family (Estimated Wealth: $42 Billion)
The Thomson family is not only the richest family in Canada but is also one of the richest families in the world. They control Thomson Reuters, a media and publishing empire founded by Roy Thomson.
In 1934, Roy acquired a newspaper in Ontario, Canada and almost immediately, he began expanding, buying up newspapers and radio stations in Ontario.Over the years, Roy Thomson expanded his media empire to more than 200 newspapers in Canada, the U.S., and the U.K.
Prior to his death in 1976, Thomson laid out a detailed succession plan for his heirs. At that time, he anointed his grandson David (over his two siblings), as his son Kenneth's eventual successor.
Currently Roy’s grandson David Thomson is the chairman of Thomson Reuters. He spearheaded the acquisition of Reuters in 2008 to form Thomson Reuters.
Interesting Fact: Roy Thompson was given the title Baron Thomson of Fleet in 1964 and made his son Kenneth promise to use the hereditary title. Currently the title is held by his grandson, David Thomson, the 3rd Baron of Fleet.
House of Saud (Estimated Wealth: $100 Billion-$21 trillion)
The al Sauds trace their ancestry back to the Arabian rulers of the 1700s, but the modern royal family is descended from Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman bin Faisal, who founded the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and ruled from 1902-1953.
Currently, the royal ruling family of Saudi Arabia includes up to 15,000 members, including 4000 princes, who serve in different leadership positions within the kingdom.
The King and leader of the royal family is King Salman, the 25th son of the founder and first king of Saudi Arabia. The House of Saud is estimated to be worth anywhere from $100 billion to over $1 trillion.
Interesting Fact: In an unprecedented display of power, crown prince Mohammed bin Salman had hundreds of princes and businessmen arrested and detained at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh in 2017. The goal—to recover proceeds of corruption. Many of the captives were released only after agreeing to sign over to the government assets, including land, cash, and business stakes. Reports that the Saudi government recovered over $100 billion during this anti-corruption campaign only further solidify the idea that the House of Saud is by far the wealthiest royal family in the world.
Dumas Family (Estimated Wealth: $50 Billion)
Heirs to a $50 Billion fortune, the Dumas family have with no doubt earned their place as one of the wealthiest families in the world. Majority of this wealth comes from their shareholding in Hermes, one of the main Paris luxury fashion houses (in the same category with Christian Dior or Chanel).
Started in 1837 by Thierry Hermès to produce fine saddles, bridles, and leather riding gear for European noblemen, the company has grown to one of most respected major luxury brands in the world.
Six generations later, two cousins: Pierre-Alexis and Axel Dumas run the fashion powerhouse with Axel the CEO and Pierre-Alexis its creative director. Hermes is the ultimate status symbol:
Interesting Fact: Hermes signature Birkin bag takes over 25 hours to make, costs upward of $10,000. This focus on perfection is what has propelled this luxury brand to such great heights.
The Boehringer/Von Baumbach Family (Estimated Wealth: $51 Billion)
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the 10 largest pharmaceutical companies in the world and the 2nd biggest in Germany. It operates across the globe with 145 affiliated companies and more than 50,000 employees on every continent.
This leading drugmaker is owned and run by the Boehringer/Von Baumbach Family who are notoriously secretive and very little is known about them in the public domain. Also Boehringer Ingelheim remains as a family held company since its inception in 1885 by the patriarch
Interesting Fact: The Boehringer family got its big break in 1895 when the founder Albert Boehringer developed a process of producing lactic acid on an industrial scale. Two years before, he had a stroke of luck when lactic acid was formed as he was experimenting with the production of citric acid.
Van Damme, De Spoelberch and De Mevius Families (Estimated Wealth: $55 Billion)
The Belgian families Van Damme, De Spoelberch and De Mevius decided in 1987 to merge their family-owned breweries to form Interbrew ( at the time one of the largest beverage and brewing companies in the world).
More mergers followed over the years leading to AB InBev which is currently the largest brewer in the world. Though the heirs of the founder families have been diversifying from the beer business, they still still hold large shares of the publicly listed Ab Inbev stock.
With a networth of around €49.4B, they are Belgium’s richest family and one of the richest families in the world.
Interesting Fact: AB InBev sells approximately 630 beer brands in 150 countries. This adds up to 29% of the global beer market with popular brands such as Budweiser and Corona under its umbrella.
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