The word “billionaire” is thrown around all too casually these days. But have you ever stopped to try and quantify how much money the world’s richest families actually have? Some of the most powerful dynasties on the planet are earning more per minute than many of us will earn in a year. So without further ado, let’s discover who the world’s 20 wealthiest families are – and how they made their billions.
20. The Albrechts – net worth: $32.6 billion
The Albrechts are the family behind the German budget supermarket Aldi. The chain was founded in 1946, when brothers Karl and Theo Albrecht returned from World War II and took over their mother’s business. And that one store in Essen, Germany has since expanded into a retail empire – with 10,000 stores in 20 countries.
Karl and Theo split the business in the 1960s after a disagreement about whether they should stock cigarettes in their stores. The two separate branches are known as Aldi Sued and Aldi Nord. Theo also acquired Trader Joe’s in 1979, and both sides of the business have since expanded to other countries in Europe and the U.S.
19. The Johnsons – net worth: $33 billion
For five generations, the Johnsons have been a leading name in the household cleaning industry. Their company – SC Johnson – started life in 1882 when Samuel C. Johnson after started selling parquet flooring. Later, the business then started offering care products like wax and wood dyes to customers.
Samuel’s son Herbert Fisk Johnson Sr. became a partner in the company in 1906 and under his leadership SC Johnson expanded worldwide. Today, SC Johnson brands include names like Glade, Pledge and Mr. Muscle. The business is headquartered in Racine, Wisconsin, in a building designed by the iconic architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
18. The Mulliez family – net worth: $33 billion
The Mulliez family are the owners of the hugely successful Auchan retail group. The company started out in 1961, when Gerard Mulliez opened his first store in Roubaix, France. He was apparently inspired by the department stores he’d seen on his travels to the U.S.
Auchan is now one of the biggest supermarket chains in Europe and it owns department stores worldwide. Furthermore, Association Familiale Mulliez – the family holding company – runs a range of retail businesses: including the DIY chain Leroy Merlin. However, while the Mulliezes may be one of the richest dynasties on the planet, younger generations still work in Auchan stores in their spare time.
17. The Pritzkers – net worth: $33.7 billion
The Pritzkers’ story is synonymous with the American Dream. Abram Nicholas Pritzker was the son of a Ukrainian immigrant who started investing in struggling companies and real estate in the 1930s while working for his father’s law firm. Abram was successful in his business endeavors and soon became rich – eventually passing on his fortune to his three sons.
It was this next generation of Pritzkers that expanded the family empire further – establishing the Hyatt Hotels chain among their many other investments. Nowadays, the Pritzkers are one of America’s best-known dynasties. And they have branched out into politics – with J.B. Pritzker serving as the Democratic Governor of Illinois.
16. The Quandts – net worth: $35 billion
In 1959 Bayerische Motoren Werke (BMW) was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was then that Herbert Quandt – whose family were a long-term investor in the German car company – came to the rescue. He provided a cash injection which would turn BMW into one of the most successful automobile businesses in the world.
The Quandt family have owned a large stake in BMW ever since, but their association with the car manufacturer isn’t without controversy. That’s because Herbert’s father Günther was a member of the Nazi Party, and during World War II the family used slave labor at their battery company Accumulatorenfabrik AG – which was producing goods for the Nazi war effort.
15. The Cox family – net worth: $36.9 billion
Cox Enterprises is a global conglomerate with a total revenue of $21 billion, according to Bloomberg. The company was founded by James M. Cox in 1898 with the purchase of Ohio newspaper the Dayton Daily News. In the following decades, the family business expanded into radio and then later into television.
Today, subsidiaries of Cox Enterprises include Cox Automotive, Cox Communications and Cox Media Group. Furthermore, some of the company’s major brands are Kelley Blue Book and AutoTrader. The company is now headed by Alexander C. Taylor, who is the great-grandson of James M. Cox, and other family members serve as directors.
14. The Johnsons – net worth: $37.4 billion
The second Johnson dynasty in the top 20 made its name through its company Fidelity Investments. The Boston-based finance multinational was founded by Edward C. Johnson back in 1946. Nowadays, Fidelity is one of the biggest investment companies in the world – managing $2.46 trillion in assets as of March 2018.
Today, Edward’s granddaughter Abigail Johnson heads up Fidelity Investments as chair, CEO and president of the family company. However, the billionaire businesswoman is no stranger to menial work. In fact, as a teenager, Abigail worked as a T-shirt vendor and a waitress when on summer break from high school.
13. The Chearavanonts – net worth: $37.9 billion
The founder of the Chearavanont family empire was Chia Ek Chor, who immigrated from China to Thailand in 1921 to set up a seed shop in Bangkok with his brother. However, it was the former’s youngest son, Dhanin Chearavanont, who helped the family business. The network later became known as the Charoen Pokphand Group, and it has since expanded to become the largest private company in Thailand.
Nowadays, the Charoen Pokphand Group consists of three businesses focusing on retail and distribution, agribusiness and food. And the company employs an impressive 300,000 people across 30 countries. Dhanin owns he group alongside his cousins and brothers, Jaran, Montri and Sumet – keeping things firmly in the family.
12. The Kwoks – net worth: $38 billion
Kwok Tak-seng founded his family company Sun Hung Kai Properties in 1972. Since then, the business has grown to become one of the biggest property developers in Hong Kong. In fact, in 2012, it was rumored that Sun Hung Kai Properties was the second most valuable real estate businesses in the world – making the Kwoks very rich indeed.
However, the wealth of the Kwoks has come with a downside. In 1997 Tak-seng’s son Walter Kwock was the victim of a kidnap and his family had to pay almost $80 million as a ransom. Today, Walter and his brothers Raymond and Thomas run Sun Hung Kai Properties – following their father’s death in 1990.
11. The Thomsons – net worth: $39.1 billion
The Thomsons lay claim to being Canada’s richest family thanks to the success of their information empire: the Thomson Corporation. And in 2008 it acquired the media company Reuters Group to create Thomson Reuters in a merger worth $17.2 billion.
The company has grown from humble beginnings – emerging in the 1930s when Roy Thomson switched from selling radios to launching his own radio station in Ontario, Canada. He later moved into newspapers and became a mogul on London’s Fleet Street. Roy’s grandson David Thomson is now the chair of Thomson Reuters and, according to Bloomberg, is worth $37.8 billion – making him Canada’s richest person.
10. The Cargill and MacMillan families – net worth: $42.9 billion
The Cargill company was founded by William W. Cargill back in 1865, and his descendants – the Cargill and MacMillan families – still own more than 90 percent of it today. The business started life as a single grain storage warehouse in Conover, Iowa, but it has since grown into an agriculture, food and industrial empire.
Today, Cargill is also America’s biggest privately held corporation when it comes to revenue. Its business interests are varied and include finance, agricultural and food services, health and pharmaceutical. Interestingly, the company supplies around 22 percent of the U.S. meat market and accounts for 25 percent of the country’s grain exports.
9. The Ambani family – net worth: $50.4 billion
The Ambani Family is the dynasty behind the Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries Limited. For his part, Dhirubhai Ambani established the precursor to the multinational in the 1950s – exporting spices to Yemen and importing yarn from his office in Mumbai. Reliance Industries as we know it today was founded in 1973 – dealing primarily in textiles.
Over the years, Reliance Industries has expanded into telecommunications, petrochemicals, energy, retail and natural resources. Furthermore, today it’s one of India’s most profitable companies. Following Dhirubhai’s death in 2002, his sons Anil and Mukesh took control of the family fortune.
8. The Boehringer and Von Baumbach families – net worth: $51.9 billion
Albert Boehringer founded the drug-making firm Boehringer Ingelheim in 1885 after purchasing a tartar factory in Ingelheim am Rhein, Germany. And to this day, over 130 years later his descendants – the Boehringers and the Von Baumbachs – still run the company.
Since 2018 Boehringer Ingelheim has been one of the world’s largest privately owned pharmaceutical companies. Still based in Germany, the firm boasts global operations – working with 146 affiliates and over 47,700 employees. Meanwhile, some of Boehringer Ingelheim’s areas of interest include oncology, immunology and respiratory conditions.
7. The Van Damme, de Spoelberch and de Mevius families – net worth: $52.9 billion
The de Spoelberch and Mevius families have been involved in the Belgian brewing industry since the 14th century through their management of the Artois brewery. Its flagship brew Stella Artois was launched in 1926 as a Christmas beer – though eventually it became available all year round.
The Van Damme family joined the Mevius and de Spoelberch empire in 1987 when Piedboeuf merged with Artois to create Interbrew. The company later merged with Brazil’s AmBev in 2004 and then became part of the AB InBev beer group. All three families have subsequently reduced their interest in AB InBev, but they remain one of the richest dynasties on the planet.
6. The Hermes family – net worth: $53.1 billion
Luxury fashion firm Hermès was founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès. But it’s Thierry’s descendant Jean-Louis Dumas who is credited with turning the family business into a global enterprise during his tenure as chairman from 1978 to 2006. And during this time, the company shifted its focus to leather goods and fashion.
It’s Jean-Louis who we have to thank for the famous Hermès Birkin bag, which he created after teaming up with the British actress Jane Birkin in 1984. Jean-Louis stepped down as chairman of the company in 2006. His son Pierre-Alexis Dumas has been artistic director at Hermès since 2011, while his nephew, Axel Dumas, stepped in as CEO in 2014.
5. The Wertheimers – net worth: $57.6 billion
Brothers Pierre and Paul Wertheimer first teamed up with Coco Chanel in the 1920s to produce and market the French designer’s perfumes. Pierre remained a business partner of Chanel’s, though she was not happy with such an arrangement. And with help from the Nazis, she tried to seize control from the Wertheimers during World War II.
However, Chanel was not successful in her attempts to seize back control from the Wertheimers. Following her death in 1971, Pierre’s son Jacques Wertheimer bought a controlling interest in the fashion house. His sons Alain and Gerard Wertheimer still run the business today and the family also owns vineyards and racehorses.
4. The Al Sauds – net worth: $100 billion
The Al Saud family is the royal dynasty that form the monarchy of Saudi Arabia, and its wealth derives from the country’s vast oil reserves. Family members receive payouts from the executive office of the king, which is known as the Royal Diwan. However, many of them boast further business interests beyond oil.
A number of Al Saud family members have increased their wealth by brokering government contracts and founding businesses that service Saudi’s state-owned companies. In a bid to tackle alleged corruption, in 2017 Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman arrested a number of individuals – including 11 princes – and held them at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh.
3. The Kochs – net worth: $124.5 billion
Koch Industries was founded in 1940 by Fred C. Koch, and his four sons inherited the company after their father’s death 27 years later. However, following a disagreement between the brothers, Charles and David Koch bought out Frederick and William Koch for $1.1 billion to become majority owners.
Together, Charles and David have built Koch Industries into a multinational conglomerate with a healthy annual revenue of around $110 billion, according to Bloomberg. However, not content with their empire, David also took up politics – running for vice president in the 1980 election for the Libertarian Party. He died in 2019 after stepping down from the family business a year prior.
2. The Mars Family – net worth: $126.5 billion
The Mars family are at the helm of a candy empire – owning brands like Milky Way, M&Ms and, of course, Mars. Its founder, Frank Mars, was taught to hand-dip chocolate by his mother as a child, and he started his business aged 19 selling molasses chips. He subsequently founded Mars, Incorporated in 1911.
Aside from confectionery, Mars also produces other products, including beverages, gum and pet food. And while the latter of these may not seem as appetizing as candy, it’s pet supplies that account for over half of Mars’ $35 billion revenue, Bloomberg reports. The family business is now in its fourth generation, but the Mars dynasty remains fiercely private.
1. The Waltons – net worth: $190.5 billion
While all the families on this list are wealthier than many of us can comprehend, none of them are richer than the Waltons. The business dynasty was founded by Bud and Sam Walton – who started Walmart in 1962. Nowadays, it is the largest retailer on the planet in terms of revenue and has sales amounting to $514 billion, according to the financial publication.
The Walton family own 50.8 percent of Walmart – which has made them extremely rich. Bloomberg claims that their net worth is a staggering $191 billion, which means that they earned $70,000 per minute in the year prior to August 2019. Or to put it into context, that’s $4 million per hour – in comparison to a Walmart worker on minimum wage earning an hourly rate of $11.