Edited By Kerry A. Dolan and Luisa Kroll
The Mellons. The Kennedys. The Rockefellers. You know the names already. Now Forbes has compiled the first comprehensive ranking of the richest families in America: 185 dynasties with fortunes of at least $1 billion. They're collectively worth $1.2 trillion. Many are working at increasing their fortunes. Others are merely sleepy heirs, several generations removed from their families' heydays. Nearly all have ties to some of the most storied businesses and brands in American history, including Jack Daniel's, L.L. Bean, Getty Oil, Hallmark and Budweiser.
The wealthiest family in America, and also the world, is the Walton family, which includes the three living children of Wal-Mart Stores founder Sam Walton; the wife of his son John, who died in 2005 in a plane crash; and the two daughters of his brother James “Bud” Walton, who helped found the Arkansas retailer in 1962. They are worth $152 billion, $63 billion more than the second richest family, headed by the politically active and often controversial Koch brothers. The three richest families are worth $301 billion, one fourth of cumulative net worth of all the wealthiest families.
This portrait of Sam Walton, his wife and children, decades before his heirs became the wealthiest dynasty in American history, hung in the Wal-Mart Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. (Photo: Gilles Mingasson/Getty Images)
Unlike our flagship Forbes 400 list of America's richest and our World Billionaires ranks, which focus on individual or nuclear-family wealth, America's Richest Families includes multigenerational families of all sizes, ranging from just 2 brothers to the 3,500 members of the Du Pont clan. Families needed a combined net worth of $1 billion to make the cut. To compile this first list we looked at members of The Forbes 400, descendants of past or deceased Forbes 400 members, families behind the country's biggest private companies and dynasties that had fallen out of our ranks because the fortunes were too dispersed, for starters. (Note: We left out self-made entrepreneurs who founded their companies and already appear with their nuclear family on our Forbes 400. That includes Jack Taylor of Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Also absent are married couples like Tom & Judy Love).
To value their fortunes we added up their assets, including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art and cash, and took into account estimates of debt. For those with publicly traded holdings, we used stock prices from the close of trading on June 20, 2014. We excluded any assets irrevocably pledged to charitable foundations. In cases where a company had been sold years ago, we applied a conservative rate of appreciation for the cash, after deducting for capital gains taxes. We attempted to vet these numbers with all the families or their representatives. Some cooperated; others didn't. Think we missed a clan? E-mail email@example.com, and we'll investigate.
AMERICA'S RICHEST FAMILIES
Edited by: Kerry A. Dolan & Luisa Kroll with Abram Brown
Reported by: Dan Alexander, Emily Canal, Erin Carlyle , Liyan Chen, Agustino Fontevecchia , Chris Helman, Alex Morrell, Joann Muller, Andrea Murphy, Carl O’Donnell, Natalie Robehmed, Katia Savchuk , Hollie Slade, Chloe Sorvino, Sandhya Subbarao & Clare O'Connor
More on Forbes: