Family Fortune: The 20 Richest Families in America

Wanna know what all these families have in common? They run businesses.

America is by far the undisputed champ when it comes to entrepreneurship, and she’s not slowing down anytime soon. Not as long as you’re around.

Let’s check out this list of family dynasties, and stay tuned to the shocking tie that caught up with the Walmart dynasty Waltons!

We’re in the midst of a revolution. The ‘start-up’ generation of self-made billionaires – entrepreneurs, investors and businessmen – is usurping the once rock-solid spot of names like Rockefeller in the dazzling roll call of “wealthiest families”.

The most iconic ‘old money’ families in American history face the challenge of building on their inherited fortune and maintaining the family’s wealth for decades and even centuries to come. All the while, ‘new money’ families are making themselves known.

In this year’s wealthiest families list, the first and second generation wealthy are contending with the old money heirs and heiresses. These new money families own and operate multi-billion dollar corporations started by a parent, uncle or someone else just one generation ahead. Some of the families on our list are likely to be familiar, while others have come from apparent obscurity to make a splash on the rich list.

These families come from a wide variety of disciplines and industries. Wealth is becoming diversified and opportunities for affluence are no longer reserved to a few exclusive industries. As always with the advent of a new “billionaire list”, we see some families making their first appearance; with the unpredictability of our ever-changing economic landscape, who knows whether they’ll make a reappearance on next year’s tally? Just as old money is no longer a sure thing, new money can be transient.

We’ve computed the total net worth of a family by adding the net worth of the individual family members who form part of a family trust, as well as familial inheritors, shareholders of the family-owned business, and other relatives and direct descendants that contribute to the family’s net worth. It should be noted that this list is an informed estimate of a family’s net worth, and as such it hasn’t been verified by the family’s representatives.

20. Stryker Family: $6.4 billion

Ronda Stryker

The Stryker family inherited their fortune from Homer Stryker. He was the founder of Stryker Corp. and the inventor of the mobile hospital bed. Though Homer’s grandchildren still maintain shares in the company, only Ronda Stryker is active in the company as a board member. Her two other siblings are also members of the billionaire’s club despite their lack of direct involvement with the company. Stryker Corp. earned an estimated $8.66 billion in revenue in the last fiscal year.

19. Bechtel Family: $6.8 billion

Riley Bechtel, centre

The Bechtel family founded the Bechtel Corporation in 1898. It’s currently the fourth largest privately owned corporation in the United States, with over 53,000 employees. The company boasts an impressive engineering and construction portfolio in the US and abroad that includes the Hoover Dam and the Hong Kong International Airport. The company was founded by Warren Bechtel and four generations of Bechtel successors have run the company since. Riley Bechtel, the great-grandson of the founder is the current CEO of the company.

18. Reyes Family: $7 billion


The Reyes family is one of the youngest families to make this list. The Reyes Beverage Group was started in 1976 after the family bought a small Schlitz beer distributorship company in South Carolina. The family business soon grew into one of the biggest food and beverage distributor in the US, Canada and South America. Reyes Holdings is currently co-run by J Christopher Reyes and his brother Jude. The two founded the company with their father and is the first-generation of Reyes’ who made this list.Reyes Holdings had an estimated $15 billion in revenues in the previous fiscal year.

17. Hearst Family: $8 billion

Amanda Hearst

The legacy of the Hearst family began in 1880 when George Hearst bought the San Francisco Daily Examiner and started a publishing empire. Throughout the past century, the family has maintained its reputation as one of the world’s leading media conglomerates, despite several scandals and controversies. The Hearst Company has a stake in over 300 magazines worldwide, and owns major cable networks including ESPN Inc. The many heirs and heiresses of George Hearst and his son William Randolph Hearst are common fixtures in the Hearst Foundation’s board of trustees. One of the most well-known members of the Hearst family, however, earned her status for reasons other than wealth; Patricia Hearst Shaw, a third generation Shaw, was once kidnapped and allegedly brainwashed by the Symbionese Liberation Army with whom she became involved in extensive illegal activities. She was imprisoned for two years before President Carter coordinated her release.

16. Meijer Family: $8.3 billion

Hank and Doug Meijer

The Meijer Inc. supermarket chain was founded in Michigan in 1934, by Dutch immigrant Hendrik Meijer. A barber by trade, Hendrik established the company during the Great Depression and enlisted his teenage son, Frederik to work for him. As of  2013 the company has its headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan and boasts 200 stores and 177 gas stations throughout America. Frederik Meijer passed away in 2011 and left his sons, Doug and Hank in charge of the family business.

15. Butt Family: $8.5 billion


The Butt family has owned the HE Butt (HEB) Grocery chain since its founding in 1905. The company largely operates in Texas, with some stores in Northern Mexico. The family business – started by Florence Butt – was inherited by Howard Edward Butt in 1919 and was taken over by his son Charles in 1971. In 2012, the company listed $18 billion in revenue, making it one of the most profitable privately owned companies in Texas and in the U.S.

14. Bass Family: $8.8 billion


The Bass family also have a place among the Texas elite. The four Bass brothers inherited their fortune and business from Sid W. Richardson, their bachelor uncle. Sid and a business partner founded several successful oil companies in the 1930s, as well as other energy companies such as the Sid Richardson Carbon Company. Aside from running the Bass Operating company, the brothers are also active in philanthropy and art patronage.

13. Johnson Family (Franklin Resources): $11.2 billion


The Johnson family runs the family-owned asset management firm Franklin Resources Inc. The company was founded in New York in 1947, by Rupert Johnson Sr. By 1957, his son Charles Bartlett Johnson took over the company and became its chairman until 2003. Charles is also the majority owner of the MLB team of San Francisco.His son Gregory Johnson is now the president and CEO of Franklin Resources. The company currently manages over $815 billion in assets and is the fifth-largest asset management group in the country.

12. Lauder Family: $11.3 billion


Estée Lauder is one of the most recognizable names in the cosmetics industry and her two sons, Ronald and Leonard look set on keeping it that way. The Lauder clan is deeply entrenched in the family business and close relatives have some key positions in the company. The business dates back to New York in 1946, and there are currently four billionaire members of the primary Lauder family branch. Jane Lauder – Estée’s granddaughter – is this year’s youngest female billionaire.

11. Taylor Family: $11.4 billion


Enterprise Rent-A-Car was established in 1957 in St. Louis, Missouri. Jack Crawford Taylor founded Enterprise Holdings and was the company’s executive chairman until the 1980s when he handed over the reins to his son, Andy. Enterprise Holdings earned $13.5 billion in 2012 and currently has over 74,000 employees worldwide.



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