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It must be the nicest to be magically born into a tremendously wealthy family and inherit the business along with billions.
In America, only a handful of families and their companies carry the country’s top billionaire heirs; like Walmart, the country’s largest retailer (the Walton family is above), and Koch Industries, which, well, dabbles in a bunch of private company stuff.
The children and grandchildren of the silent generation founders inherited the fortunes of their family’s wealth, and now form Forbes’ list of the country’s wealthiest heirs.
Their cumulative wealth is staggering:
Together the country’s 20 richest billionaire heirs (technically there are 23 because several are tied at number 20) are worth $568 billion. That’s about 13.5% of the $4.2 trillion in wealth of all 701 U.S. billionaires, according to Forbes’ estimates. Here’s a look at who they are and where their money comes from. (Net worths are as of Thursday, June 16.)
First up, are the heirs of Koch Industries who inherited the oil-and-refinery company when their father, Fred, died in 1967.
They’ve upscaled and modernised the business though, growing it into the second-largest private company in the US.
It now has an estimated $115 billion in revenues diversifying into pipelines, chemicals, Dixie cups, and more recently, cloud software:
(Charles and his brother David (d. 2019) bought out the stakes of their two brothers, Frederick and Bill, for $1.1 billion in 1983.) Charles has run the company since the death of his father, orchestrating the $13 billion acquisition of Georgia Pacific in 2005 and the estimated $13 billion purchase of cloud software firm Infor in 2020, among others.
The wealthier of the Koch children, Charles Koch, appeared on the first Forbes 400 list of richest Americans in 1982 with a net worth of $266 million and now has an estimated fortune of around $59,6 billion:
He has tied with Julia Koch (the same net worth as Charles) on Forbes’ list of the richest American heirs:
The wife of the late David Koch–brother of Charles Koch–became one of the richest people in the world when he died in 2019 at age 79. She and her three children—David Jr., Mary Julia and John—inherited David’s 42% stake in Koch Industries.
Julia Koch, age 60, sits on the board of directors of Koch Industries and focuses on philanthropy as president of the David H. Koch Charitable Foundation.
You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not a big fan of the Koch family. Charles, in particular, is playing a leading role in destroying our planet.
Then, there are the heirs of Walmart, which Sam Walton and brother James founded back in 1962 and which is now basically half-owned by members of the family:
Seven have fortunes of $10 billion or more, including Sam Walton’s three living children–Rob, Jim, and Alice—and grandson Lukas. (The eighth Walmart billionaire, Christy Walton, the widow of Sam’s late son John, is worth an estimated $7 billion.)
Jim Walton is the wealthiest in the family with a net worth of $58,3 billion:
The youngest son of Sam Walton owns an estimated 13% stake in the retailer his father founded in 1962. He served on Walmart’s board of directors for more than a decade before handing the job off to his son, Steuart, in 2016. Now, the 74-year-old Walton serves as chairman of the family-owned Arvest Bank, which says it has $26 billion in assets.
Then comes Alice Walton with her net worth of $57,5 billion, even though she has been less involved in the progress of Walmart:
Though she’s one of the biggest beneficiaries of the family’s retail empire, Sam Walton’s only daughter (dubbed the “misfit” of the heirs in a 2013 Forbes profile) has steered mostly clear of working for the family business–when she was younger she held several positions at Walmart but never held any senior roles.
She’s instead dedicated her time to passions like horse breeding and art collecting, opening the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in her hometown of Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011.
Sam’s eldest son, Rob Walton, has created waves recently for using his vast fortune to make the most expensive sports team purchase in US history:
With a net worth of $57,2 billion – the 15th richest person in America and the fifth richest US heir – he won the bidding war for the Denver Broncos NFL team with a $4,65 billion offer.
Jeff Bezos’ ex-wife, MacKenzie Scott, made the list at number six with her net worth of $30,7 billion.
Otherwise, Elon Musk’s daughter just announced that she would be disowning her father and ditching his name, so she may well be kissing a massive inheritance goodbye.
Anyway, all I can do is imagine the version of myself in a parallel universe where I, too, am an heir to astrononimcal family wealth.
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