According to Forbes, there are 45 American families with a net worth of at least $10 billion. The wealthiest family is the heirs of Walmart founder Sam Walton, who own approximately 45% of the retail giant and have a combined net worth of $267 billion as of January 16. This new ranking shows that their fortune exceeds Elon Musk’s net worth, which is about $202 billion. Together, these 45 super-rich families have an estimated total net worth of roughly $1.3 trillion, which is about ten times that of Warren Buffett’s personal fortune.
The Mars family is the second wealthiest family, with a fortune of $117 billion. Other prominent names such as Koch, Lauder, Hearst, and Marriott are also listed. However, some well-known families such as Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Getty have been omitted from the rankings due to various reasons including stock-price performance, legal disputes, taxes on stock sales, and charitable giving. The descendants of John D. Rockefeller barely made Forbes’ list with a fortune of $10.3 billion.
Many of America’s wealthiest families built their fortunes by establishing the country’s largest private companies or maintaining ownership stakes in public companies they helped build. For instance, the Cargill-MacMillan family owns over $60 billion due to their ownership of about 88% of Cargill, a major ingredients company. The Dorrance family has nearly 40% of Campbell Soup and the Brown family has about half of Brown-Forman while Pritzkers are the largest shareholders of Hyatt Hotels. 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 highlights 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 value