Our society is obsessed with accumulating wealth. Something natural. We’d all like to have more money. Hence, we have created an informal cult around those people who have the most resources on the entire planet. In many ways, our admiration for them stems from their individuality. The magnitudes of their wealth, controlled by a single man or woman, are only apprehensible if we measure them with practical experiments, as with grains of rice.
But as much as the self-made man tale dominates our narrative on contemporary capitalism, with its Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk, much of the world’s wealth remains controlled by a handful of families. The greatest fortunes on the planet are still coral, inherited by generations and managed privately thanks to a, particularly lucrative business. Not all of them are as fun as the one portrayed in Succession, but they are certainly just as powerful.
This VisualCapitalist chart sorts all of them. It is based on data obtained by Bloomberg to rank the richest family conglomerates on the planet from highest to lowest. What is relevant here is not the assets of the CEO or the momentary owner of the business, but the emporium. The construction and maintenance of a castle of wealth that survives in the passage of time, a company perhaps not so in tune with it but of the times, more individual, but certainly more transcendental.
At the head of all of them, and by far, the Walton family, from Arkansas and owner of Walmart, the most important retail chain in the United States. His approximate wealth is around $ 215,000 million (Bezos’s, for example, and although it fluctuates regularly, it is usually estimated at around $ 180 billion). It is followed at a considerable distance by the Mars family, also American and dedicated to the candy and sweets business ($ 120 billion). The Koch ($ 109 billion) complete the podium.
All of them have their roots in the middle of the last century when the expansion of the consumer economy and post-war honey paved the way for some companies, ideas or businesses to grow enough to take a dominant position in the most important market in the world. And since then they have managed to stay. The first non-American is the Saudi royal family, with a net worth of about $ 95 billion. His source of wealth is obvious.
In Europe the first family is Hermès, French and dedicated to cosmetics and perfumery ($ 63 billion), followed by another French and similarly dedicated, Wertheimer (Chanel, $ 54 billion). The German Albrechts sneak in there (Aldi, $ 41 billion); the Italian Ferrero (Ferrero, $ 30 billion); or the Swiss Hoffmann and Oeri (Roche, $ 38 billion). Here there is also a space for technology companies in the hands of the Korean Lee, owners of Samsung ($ 29,000 million).
Although the big names in the technology industry populate the individual rankings, they are absent from family members. The graph purposely excludes them by not including the founders of each business empire (excluding Steve Jobs, all active) and by discounting family estates but controlled by only one person (the Gates, for example). There is also another peculiarity: no great technology is familiar, and the figures in charge or their owners do not have access to shareholders by blood right.
In any case, an interesting visual exercise to discover, in reality, who is behind everything we buy or consume.