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, which is estimated to be around $202 billion.
The Mars family is the second wealthiest family on the list, with a fortune of $117 billion. Other notable families such as the Kochs, Lauders, Hearsts, and Marriotts are also included in the rankings. However, some prominent names such as Carnegie, Vanderbilts, and Gettys have been omitted due to reasons including stock-price performance, legal disputes, taxes on stock sales, and charitable giving.
Many of America’s wealthiest families built their fortunes through the establishment of private companies or ownership stakes in public companies they helped build. For example, the Cargill-MacMillan family is worth over $60 billion due to their ownership of about 88% of Cargill, a major ingredients company. Other families 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. 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 suggests that creating a lasting and massive business is the most effective way to build vast generational wealth regardless if it’s kept in the family or sold.