The Federal minimum wage in the United States is $7.25 per hour. On the other hand, Jeff Bezos makes over $142,500 per minute. That level of wealth is hard for everyday people to comprehend. After all, to think of someone who earned your entire annual salary in the brief time it took to read these few sentences borders on insanity!
Yet, despite the concern surrounding this gap between the rich and poor, there’s also a society-wide fascination with the richest families in the world. How do the other half live? What’s life like when you earn more in a day than most do in a lifetime? Furthermore, just how much wealth have some people accrued?
Today, we’re going to address that final question. Rather than discuss the wealthiest people, though – a topic that’s been covered at length elsewhere – we’re going to talk about the richest family in the world. Granted, there are more affluent people in the world. Elon Musk is worth about $180 billion, and Warren Buffet’s net worth is ~$110 billion. But we define family wealth as intergenerational, meaning it was passed down to later generations.
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The Richest Family in the World: The Waltons
Sam Walton bought his first store in 1945. He opened the very first Walmart store on July 2, 1962, in Rogers, Arkansas. Sixty years later, Walmart is the world’s largest retailer by sales, and his heirs are worth over $231 billion and are individually amongst the wealthiest people in the world. That makes the Waltons the richest family in the world by a country mile.
An eye-watering fortune, it’s divided predominantly between five family members: Jim Walton, S. Robson (“Rob”) Walton, Alice Walton, Lukas Walton, and Christy Walton. At the time of writing, they are worth $67.8, $67.1, $65.4, $23.6, and $10.6 billion, respectively. Lukas Walton is a grandson of Sam Walton and son of John and Christy Walton. She is the widow of John Walton, one of Sam Walton’s sons.
Together with the rest of the Walton family, they own approximately 48% of Walmart, giving them control of the company.
Ann Walton Kroenke and Nancy Walton Laurie, the daughters of Sam Walton’s brother James, also have large stakes in the company through inheritance from their father.
Here are a few statistics about Walmart that help explain why it’s made the Waltons so wealthy over the last half-century:
- The company employs over 1.6 million people in the US, making it the country’s largest private-sector employer.
- It’s also the world’s largest retailer, with stores in 24 different countries
- visited by 240 million customers every week in 2021.
- Walmart’s global revenues reached a staggering $572.8 billion in the fiscal year 2022.
- Walmart has a market capitalization of $413.7 billion (as of November 23, 2022).
The Walton family’s wealth doesn’t stop with their shares in Walmart, though. They also own Arvest Bank, one of the oldest banks in Arkansas, with assets exceeding $26 billion. Its current chair and CEO is Sam Walton’s son, Jim. Venture capital, real estate, and index funds are a few other areas of investment in which the Waltons have diversified in recent years.
5 More of the World’s Richest Families
The Waltons may be the richest family in the world, but they’re far from the only clan boasting a vast fortune. In this section, and in no particular order, we’re going to detail five other families that give the Waltons a run for their money:
The Mars Family
Founded by Franklin Clarence Mars in 1911, the eponymous company is famous for its confectionery, like M&Ms, Milky Way, and Snickers. However, few people realize it’s also the world’s largest provider of vet and pet-care products, like Pedigree. The company’s success has blessed the Mars family with a ~$160 billion fortune, making them one of the top five richest families in the world. Besides closely held Mars Incorporated, the family also owns real estate.
Today, the family’s wealth is controlled predominantly by the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of Frank Mars. Jacqueline Mars and John Mars are worth about $55.7 billion each.
The Hermès-Dumas Family
Across the pond, the Dumas family is behind the French luxury design house, Hermès (pronounced air-MEZ, if you’re from France). They are worth an estimated $111.6 billion. But, of course, that enormous sum of money makes more sense when you discover its infamous Birkin handbags can sell for tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The luxury goods company was founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. Today, the company is run by sixth-generation cousins Axel and Pierre-Alexis Dumas, the CEO and Artistic Director, respectively. Hermès is publicly traded, but the Dumas family owns 75% of the controlling shares.
The Koch Family
Back in 1940, an American by the name of Fred C. Koch started an oil firm called Wood River Oil & Refining Co. that eventually passed to his sons, Frederick, Charles, David, and William. Unfortunately, the brothers fought, and Frederick and William left the family business while Charles and David remained.
It’s since morphed into the conglomerate Koch Industries and has turned the Kochs into one of the richest families in the world. Today, they’re worth almost $129 billion, with Charles’ wealth at ~$69.1 billion. David’s widow and his children have about $69.1 billion.
The Wertheimer Family
Have you ever heard of that little luxury goods company called Chanel? Well, the grandfather of Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, Pierre Wertheimer, helped fund it in its early days in the 1920s. The brothers now co-own the company and have garnered a ~$87 billion family fortune as a result.
The brothers are worth about $43.4 billion each. Besides Chanel, they own vineyards, racehorses, and a family office, Mousse Partners.
The Ambani Family
You can trace the roughly $93.7 billion fortune of the Ambani family back to 1957 when Dhirubhai Ambani founded a textile company that’s now called Reliance Industries Ltd. After he died in 2022 without a will, the original Reliance was divided between the two sons.
His elder son, Mukesh Ambani, is now in charge of Reliance Industries – and he doesn’t mind flaunting his money. He lives in a 27-story property in Mumbai called Antilia that’s worth $2.6 billion. The family controls 50% of the shares, while the other 50% is public float.
Wealthier Than Entire Countries
Countless times wealthier than entire countries like Tuvalu and other island nations, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like if you belonged to one of the most affluent families on the planet. But, from the Kochs and Ambanis to the Wertheimers and Waltons, these people operate on a totally different level in terms of money.
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