According to Forbes, there are now 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 wealth exceeds Elon Musk’s net worth, which is estimated to be around $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, with a fortune of $117 billion. Other well-known families such as Koch, Lauder, Hearst, and Marriott are also listed.
However, some prominent names like Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Getty have been omitted from the rankings for various reasons such as 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.
Some 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 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 like 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 suggests that building vast generational wealth requires creating a lasting massive business and whether it’s kept within the family or taken private or sold doesn’t seem to make much difference in terms of long term sustainability