As the country’s population ages and the number of baby boomers starts to shrink, a new generation is set to inherit the fortunes of America’s most wealthy dynasties.
Born between 1946 and 1964 and making up just 20 percent of the population, boomers own more than 50 percent of US household wealth – $73 trillion of out of $140 trillion, according to Fed data.
The US life expectancy as given by the World Bank is just over 77 years, meaning that by 2041 even the very youngest baby boomers will likely be gone. The impending handover of wealth will therefore be the largest in US history.
While the average American may leave behind a family home and some savings, the richest will hand over business empires now finetuned to dominate almost every American industry – from food and agriculture to media, finance and manufacturing.
Retail giants, the Waltons, are the richest family in America: the three remaining children of Walmart’s late founder Sam Walton are aged between 73 and 78 and have a collective wealth of nearly $190 billion.
Expected to inherit the bulk of that are a handful of little-known heirs, among them Tom and Lukas Walton, in their late 30s.
According to a Forbes ranking of some of America’s richest families, the Waltons are trailed by other families including the Cargill-MacMillans, the Marses the Lauders, the Cathys and the Hearsts.
Baby boomers own more than 50 percent of American household wealth – $73 trillion of a total of $140 trillion – despite making up only around 20 percent of the population
Walton Family – $247 billion
The Waltons hold an estimated $250 billion, most of which stems from Walmart. Sam Walton founded both Walmart and Sam’s Club but died with extreme wealth in 1992, enriching his four children of the now-outgoing boomer generation.
Sam had four children – Sam, John, Jim and Alice – and 10 grandchildren, who have started inheriting the family’s hundreds of billions of dollars at varying rates.
Currently one of the wealthiest of the third-generation Walton heirs is 37-year-old Lukas Walton, who inherited his share early. He is the only son of John, who died suddenly in 2005 while piloting a homemade aircraft. Lukas then reportedly inherited a third of his fortune, worth nearly $23 billion.
Sam’s eldest son Rob, 78, is worth more than $60 billion and has three children: Sam Jr., Carrie and Ben.
Steuart Walton (left), 42, and Tom Walton (right), 39, are the sons of Jim Walton, who in turn is the youngest son of the Walmart founder Sam Walton. Their father is 74 years old and worth more than $60 billion. They are pictured here with their wives Kelly Rohrbach (left) and Olivia Walton (right)
Baby boomer heirs: Walmart founder Sam Walton’s three surviving children, Alice, Jim and Rob Walton. Their brother John died in a plane crash in 2005. Between them, they have around 10 children
Sam’s third son is Jim Walton, now 74, and also worth more than $60 billion. He has four children to inherit his fortunes.
One of them is Tom Walton, 39. He and his wife Olivia live in Arkansas, the birthplace of Walmart and where much of the family resides. Olivia worked formerly as a journalist for NBC News, MSNBC and as an anchor for Bloomberg Television in New York and London.
Tom’s older brother, Steuart Walton, is 42 and married model and Baywatch actress Kelly Rohrbach, 33, in 2019. She had dated Leonardo DiCaprio in 2015. Jim’s other two children are Alice Walton Proietti, 43, and James Walton Jr, who is around 35.
Seventy-seven-year-old Alice Walton is Sam’s youngest child. She is worth more than $60 billion, but has no children.
Olivia Walton, the wife of Sam Waltons’s grandson Tom, 39, is pictured in 2016. The couple lives together in Arkansas
Lukas Walton, 37, reportedly inherited a third of his fortune, worth nearly $23 billion, in 2005 when his father died in a plane crash. He is a grandson of Sam Walton
Koch Family – $100 billion
The second richest family in America is the Kochs, whose money is tied up in Koch Industries, one of the largest privately owned companies in America, with revenues of around $125 billion.
Fred Koch is the patriarch who patented a technique for refining heavy oil into gasoline in 1927 and started an oil refinery in Kansas in 1940.
His sons, Charles Koch and David Koch – who died after a battle with prostate cancer in 2019 – were among the biggest donors to the GOP since the 1980s and have shaped American politics as we know it today.
Since the 1980s, the Koch brothers have used their enormous fortune to bankroll their own conservative political machine, creating a vast empire of organizations and advocacy groups that entrenched the post-Reagan GOP as the party of tax cuts and scant regulation.
Charles Koch (right), 87, is the chairman and CEO of Koch Industries and is personally worth around $60 billion. He is pictured with his son, Chase, 45, who is rising through the company’s ranks
In doing so, they became the bête noire for many Democratic and environmental activists, who bemoaned the tentacles of the ‘kochtopus’ and its outsized influence on conservative politics.
Environmental activists criticized the pair for funding political campaigns that focused on rolling back environmental regulations and being the primary sponsors of climate change denial in the US.
They spent millions funding climate change-denying research, think tanks and politicians – which analysts believe was to expand their fossil fuel fortunes.
Koch Industries has paid millions in penalties and fines for oil spills, discharging toxic chemicals and violating other environmental regulations.
Charlies, 87, is the current CEO of Koch Industries and is worth $59 billion with 42 percent ownership of the company. He has two children Chase and Elizabeth who are due to inherit his fortune.
Elizabeth Koch, 47, is totally removed from the family business and runs a nonprofit, Unlikely Collaborators, which is dedicated to the creation of ‘provocative experiences that help you face who you think you are.’
Her brother Chase is 45 and the likely heir to the business and rapidly climbing the Koch Industries corporate ladder. He is currently the president of Koch Disruptive Technologies.
David died aged 79 in 2019 and was an executive vice president of Koch Industries. He was a prominent Republican donor He left behind two boys, John Mark Koch and David Koch Jr. as well as a daughter, Mary Julia Koch – they are all much younger.
Elizabeth Koch, 47, is one of Charles’ children and totally removed from the Koch family business. She runs a nonprofit, Unlikely Collaborators
CEO of Koch Industries and son of Fred Koch, Charles, is pictured with his children Chase and Elizabeth. Chase is the president of Koch Disruptive Technologies while his sister is not involved in the business
Lauder Family – $40 billion
The Lauder dynasty was born out of the cosmetics company Estée Lauder, created in 1946 by its eponymous founder, born Josephine Esther Mentzer in 1908.
Estée Lauder Companies is made up of 29 brands, including makeup companies MAC and Clinique, as well as fragrance lines for brands like Donna Karan and Michael Kors.
Six billionaire members of the family hold stakes in the business – her sons Ronald, 79, and Leonard, 90, serve as chairman of Clinique Laboratories and chairman emeritus of Estée Lauder. They are worth an estimated $4.5 billion and $18.4 billion respectively.
Ronald Lauder is father to Aerin Lauder, 53, and Jane Lauder, 49, who are worth around $3 billion to $4 billion each.
Aerin is the style and image director at Estée Lauder and founded her own luxury brand, AERIN Beauty, in 2012. Last year she sold her full-floor apartment at 660 Park Avenue for $20 million. Philip Berlinski, CEO of Goldman Sachs Bank USA and global treasurer of Goldman Sachs, paid for the unit in cash, the Real Deal reported.
Her younger sister Jane also works in the company as an executive vice president and the chief data officer.
(L-R) Jane Lauder, William P. Lauder, Leonard Lauder, Ronald Lauder and Aerin Lauder pictured in a family portrait
Aerin Lauder, 53, is the style and image director at Estée Lauder. She is Estée Lauder’s granddaughter
Jane Lauder, 49, is the younger sister to Aerin, and an executive vice president and the chief data officer at the company
Bloomberg family – $95 billion
The Bloomberg fortune was earned by Michael Bloomberg, 81. The enormous wealth in his family therefore currently spans just two generations, though his daughters both have young children.
The former mayor of New York City has a fortune of nearly $100 billion, according to Forbes, and his two daughters who will likely inherit swathes of it.
Emma, 44, and Georgina, 40, both featured in a 2003 documentary film Born Rich, about the children of the world’s most wealthy children.
The elder daughter went to Princeton for college before studying business and public administration at Harvard. She married her husband Chris Frissora in 2005 and in 2015 had their first child, Zelda Violet Frissberg.
Instead of choosing a single last name or using both they elected for a portmanteau, meaning it is a hybrid of the two.
The other, Georgina, is a graduate of NYU an equestrian and has a nine-year-old son with fellow equestrian, Ramiro Quintana. In 2019 she bought a home in the Upper West Side of Manhattan for $10 million, Mansion Global reported at the time.
(L-R) Georgina Bloomberg, Emma Bloomberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Diana Taylor attend a Metropolitan Museum of Art event in May 2017 in New York City
Bloomberg’s daughters Emma (left), 44, and Georgina (right), 40, both featured in a 2003 documentary film Born Rich. They are pictured together in 2019
Cargill-MacMillan Family – $47 billion
The Cargill-MacMillan family owns Cargill, another of America’s largest private companies with a revenue of around $115 billion. The family now has 14 billionaires, more than any other family in the world.
Cargill was founded in 1865 by William Wallace Cargill. It is headquartered in Minnesota and the largest agricultural company in the world, producing and processing agricultural products but also offering a variety of financial services.
Most family members have extremely private lives and according to Forbes, many live on ranches and farms throughout Montana.
Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer, around 62, is a great-great-granddaughter of William Wallace Cargill, the founder of Cargill
Very few pictures of the family exist in the public realm. Duncan MacMillan’s 1998 book, ‘The American Grain Family’, described the family as ‘most doggedly secretive’.
The company’s common equity has been owned by descendants of William Cargill and his son-in-law John MacMillan for over 140 years and six family members are on its 17-person board.
There are nearly 100 family members that together own around 90 percent of the company. The remaining ten percent is owned by employees through stock ownership plans and management-owned shares.
But by 2016, the fifth generation of the Cargill family was already starting to see representation on Cargill’s board. One was Andrew Cargill Liebmann, 43, who had never worked at the company prior but is now an astrophysicist at Montana State University.
Gwendolyn Sontheim Meyer, around 62, is a great-great-granddaughter of William Wallace Cargill and was worth $4.4 billion in 2020. She has two children, but little is known about them.
Cathy Family – $14 billion
The Cathy family falls slightly lower down the list, but is still among the 20 or so wealthiest families in the country. Its money, which comes mainly though fast food, is more recently earned than some of the others.
S. Truett Cathy opened the Atlanta diner Dwarf Grill in 1946 and later launched Chick-fil-A in 1967. He died in 2014, meaning the reins were then handed over to his children.
Today, his sons Dan, 70, and Don ‘Bubba’ Cathy, 69, run the fried chicken chain as chairman and executive vice president, respectively. The are both worth in the region of $5 billion.
Trudy Cathy White (center in red sweater), 67, and her husband John have four children and 17 grandchildren (pictured)
Andrew Cathy (left), 43, became the third CEO of Chick-fil-A in 2016. He is the grandson of its founder S. Truett Cathy (right), who died in 2014. His father is pictured in the middle
Chick-Fil-A founder S. Truett Cathy (left) is pictured with his grandson Mark Cathy (right) at the restaurant chain’s new San Marcos location in 2006
In 2021, his daughter Trudy, 67, who also works for the family business was added by Forbes to its list of billionaires. She became an operator of a Chick-fil-A in Birmingham, Alabama, after finishing her freshman year at Samford University, and currently serves as Ambassador.
Trudy has a huge family, made up of four children and 17 grandchildren, according to her personal website.
And the fortunes will continue to trickle through the generations. In September 2021 it was announced that Dan’s son, Andrew, 43, would become the company’s third CEO in taking over from his father.
Bubba has around six children, including Mark Cathy, who has been working within the company for more than 15 years in a variety of roles.
Mars Family – $94 billion
The Mars family owns Mars Inc., one of the largest candy and pet food companies in the world. In April 2020 the combined wealth of its ‘notoriously private’ members were estimated to be around $126 billion.
The company goes back multiple generations. It was founded in 1911 by Frank C. Mars who started selling candy out of his kitchen in Tacoma, Washington.
But it was his son Forrest Mars Sr. who grew the it into one of the largest companies in the country after joining in 1926 and developing the Milky Way bar.
When he died in 1999, his children, Jacqueline, John and Forrest Jr. Mars, inherited a stake in the company.
The Mars Family: Jacqueline Mars (center), and her granddaughters, Graysen Airth (left), and Katherine Burgstahler
Jacqueline is perhaps the only even remotely high-profile of his children and 83-years-old.
In 2013 she was involved in a crash near her home in Virginia in which one person died and a pregnant woman miscarried. She told a witness after the crash that she had fallen asleep at the wheel of her Porsche SUV and pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
Now, Jacqueline and John co-own Mars Inc. They have the biggest share of the family fortune, with US$24 billion each.
Hearst Family – $21 billion
The Hearst family controls a media empire started by its patriarch William Randolph Hearst, now Heart Corporation. According to Forbes the Hearst family is worth around $21 billion.
William R. Hearst III, 73, is the current chairman of the board and the grandson of William Randolph Hearst.
He grew up in New York, where his father William Randolph Hearst Jr., but often called Bill, was publisher of the New York Journal-American.
Hearst III has a son, William Dedalus Hearst, and three daughters, Adelaide, Caroline and Eliza.
Amanda Hearst, 39, is a grand daughter to William Randolph Hearst and perhaps one of the most public of the young Hearst heirs. She gave birth to her first son Joachim Rønning in 2022.
She also has a half brother, Randy Hearst Harris, who is around 33. He married Paula Porubcanova in a lavish Hamptons wedding last year, Page Six reported.
Her mother is Anne Hearst, a contributing editor of Town & Country magazine, published by Hearst, and the granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst.
Anne’s sister is Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped in 1974 by members of the Symbionese Liberation Army. The term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ is famously attached to her kidnapping, and her later participation in her kidnappers’ crimes.
Amanda Hearst, 39, is one of the most public of the young Hearst heirs and the daughter of Anne Hearst and the the granddaughter of newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst
(L-R) Anne Hearst McInerney, Randy Harris and King Harris attend a gala in Water Mill, New York, in 2013
Duncan family – $22 billion
The Duncan family inherited their wealth almost all of their wealth from oilman Dan Duncan, founder of Enterprise Products. After going public in 1998 it became one of the biggest midstream energy companies in the US.
Duncan died in 2010 and his four children inherited the trusts that collectively own roughly one third of the stock in the pipeline behemoth.
His children Randa Duncan Williams, Milane Frantz, Dannine Duncan Avara and Scott Duncan inherited a $10 billion estate from Dan when he died in 2010.
Randa, 61, became chair of the company’s board in 2013 and had an individual worth of around $7 billion, according to Forbes. She is married to Charles A. Williams, with whom she lives in Houston. They have one son.
Randa Williams, 61, and her husband Charles A. Williams pictured in 2014. Randa became the chair of Enterprise Products in 2013 and is said to be worth around $7 billion. The couple live in Houston and have a son, whose name is not known
Rockefeller family – $8 billion
The Rockefeller wealth is also tied up in oil and stems back to John D. Rockefeller, America’s first billionaire, who founded Standard Oil in 1870.
He and his son John Jr. were active for over a century and gave away more than a billion dollars and established the University of Chicago.
Today, the Rockefeller fortune is spread out among more than 70 heirs.
Among them is Ariana Rockefeller, a handbag designer and a great great grand child of John D. Rockefeller. She was born to David Rockefeller Jr. and Diana Rockefeller in 1982.
Much of the family’s estimated $8 billion wealth is managed by Rockefeller Capital Management, which was born out of Rockefeller & Company in 2018. Ariana’s father David Jr. now serves on the board of directors.
Ariana Rockefeller (left) and her grandfather David Rockefeller Sr. (right) attend the private reception celebrating the opening of her pop-up shop in 2013
Ariana Rockefeller attends a gala at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2018 in New York City
Susan Rockefeller (left), David Rockefeller Sr. (center) and Ariana Rockefeller (right) attend a Museum of Modern Art Party in 2016
Most of these ultrarich families have successfully retained their wealth across multiple generations, with the exception of a handful, like the Bloombergs.
The Cargill-MacMillan family has held on to its wealth for almost eight generations. Nonetheless it is not unheard for challenging times to derail highly successful families.
One family whose fortunes took a tremendous knock in recent years are the Sacklers, owners of opioid producer Purdue Pharma.
Their fall from grace began in 2014, when the Massachusetts and New York attorney generals implicated eight Sackler family members in the nation’s deadly opioid epidemic, costing the family more than $5 billion in settlements.