According to Forbes, there are now 45 American families with a net worth of at least $10 billion. The wealthiest family, the Waltons, is worth an estimated $267 billion as of January 16, surpassing Elon Musk’s net worth of approximately $202 billion. These decabillionaire families have a combined 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 family on the list, with a fortune of $117 billion. Other notable families such as Koch, Lauder, Hearst, and Marriott are also included. However, some prominent names like Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and Getty have been excluded from the rankings due to reasons such as stock-price performance and legal disputes.
Many of America’s wealthiest families built their fortunes through the establishment of private companies or by 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, while the Dorrance family has nearly 40% of Campbell Soup and the Brown family owns about half of Brown-Forman. Some families have sold their stakes in businesses as well; for instance, the Busch family sold its stake in Anheuser-Busch to InBev in 2008 and the Haslam family sold its stake in Pilot Travel Centers for around $13 billion to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway over several years.
This new ranking shows that creating a lasting business with massive scale is still one of the most effective ways to build vast generational wealth. Whether it’s kept within the family or taken private or sold doesn’t seem to make a significant impact on this goal.