According to Forbes, there are now 45 American families with a net worth of at least $10 billion. The wealthiest family, the Waltons, owns approximately 45% of Walmart and has a combined net worth of $267 billion as of January 16. This figure exceeds Elon Musk’s net worth of about $202 billion, making the Waltons the second richest family in America.
The Mars family is the second wealthiest family in America, with a fortune of $117 billion. Other notable families such as Koch, Lauder, Hearst, and Marriott are also listed. However, prominent names like Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Getty have been omitted from the rankings due to reasons including stock-price performance, legal disputes, taxes on stock sales, and charitable giving.
Some of America’s wealthiest families built their fortunes by establishing the country’s largest private companies. For example, the Cargill-MacMillan family is worth over $60 billion due to their ownership of about 88% of Cargill, a major ingredients company. Others still maintain ownership stakes in public companies they helped build, such as the Dorrance family with nearly 40% of Campbell Soup and the Brown family with about half of Brown-Forman. Additionally, some families have sold their stakes in businesses like the Busch family who sold its stake in Anheuser-Busch to InBev in 2008 and the Haslam family who sold their stake in Pilot Travel Centers for about $13 billion to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway over several years.
The list of super-rich families indicates that building vast generational wealth is most effectively achieved by creating a lasting massive business that can be kept within the family or taken private or sold without significant impact on its overall value.