The Wealthiest Families in the World5
By Marti Resteghini
Money is a powerful tool. It can make or break a man, a family, a country. With it, you can help those in need, as does the Red Cross, or you can find ways to divide and feed selfish wants, like the jewelry-rich family in the soap opera series DeVanity.
In a time when a large portion of the world is feeling the strain of a struggling, evolving economy, there are still those whose fortunes grow exponentially. Their wealth eclipses that of any traditional wealthy families, surpassing the GDP of some small nations. In order to attain such wealth, these families have ingrained themselves in the fabric of the world’s purchasing habits, owning stakes in things like grocery stores, banking, and telecommunications. These families have so much money that many of them have pledged charitable donations into the billions of dollars.
Who are these families and how did they amass such wealth?
DeVanity – Episode 1
Tech wizard Bill Gates has amassed a large fortune as a result of his computer software company Microsoft, but it was not the company alone that made him a rich man; it was the vision of a personal computer-driven world. As the creator (in partnership with childhood friend Paul Allen) of computer operating systems, including Basic and DOS, Gates anchored himself in the development of computers as we known them today. Now retired, he and his wife Melinda devote their life to philanthropic causes including the largest transparently-operated charitable foundation in the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – inspiring other heavy weights like Mark Zuckerberg and Warren Buffet to donate at least half of their wealth over time. Although it is estimated that the Gates have already donated over $28 billion to charity, the family is worth an estimated $59 billion.
The wealthiest man in the world is telecommunications magnate Carlos Slim Helu. Valued at $74 billion, he eclipses the fortune of well-known heavy weight Bill Gates. However, he had a nice head start. Julian Slim (his father) and Jose Slim (uncle) laid the roots of the empire with a highly profitable dry goods store in Mexico City, followed by a number of other businesses and real estate ventures. Today, Slim owns Latin America’s largest mobile-phone carrier, America Movil. He also has a stake in Hershey’s, Sears Roebuck, The New York Times, and the British American Tobacco Company.
Bud and Sam Walton, the founders of Wal-Mart, have made the Waltons one of the wealthiest families in the world, with an estimated worth of $93 billion. Not only are they the world’s largest private employer, the family also profits from other business investments including involvement in First Solar, Arvest Bank, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Denver Nuggets, the St. Louis Rams, Colorado Avalanche, and one of England’s premier soccer clubs, Arsenal.
The Rockefellers are synonymous with American wealth. John D. Rockefeller, an accounting clerk, started this fortune with a $4,000 investment in oil refining in 1863. His legacy, the founding of Standard Oil (Exxon Mobil), was then followed by a string of successful investments in a number of areas including real estate (Rockefeller Center) and finance (David Rockefeller ran Chase Manhattan Bank). The family is considered an American dynasty, not just helping build the nation’s economy as we know it, but also getting involved in the political arena, including serving as Vice President of the United States (Nelson Rockefeller). The family is also known for its charitable contributions. David Rockefeller is estimated to have donated over $900 million over his lifetime to educational institutions like Harvard University and cultural organizations like the Museum of Modern Art. The family’s collective wealth is estimated at $110 billion.
The Al Nahyans, one of the six ruling families of the United Arab Emirates, are reportedly worth an estimated $650 billion. They manage the government and business sectors of Abu Dhabi, the Emirate’s capital. Although the discovery of oil in their country in 1958 transformed the country, and the region, into what it is today, it is the formation and successful management of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, that has catapulted the Al Nahyans into record-breaking riches. The fund holds investments in international finance, real estate, construction, clean energy, and film finance.
Although there is still some debate as to who in fact is the wealthiest family in the world, most would agree the title should be given to The Rothschilds. This family of German descent began its rise in the 18th century when Amschel Moses Rothschild installed his sons into the family business, international finance. This business laid the groundwork for the spread of the family name and its incorporation into European nobility in the countries of Italy, England, Austria, Germany, France, and Switzerland. Today, the family’s holdings are not limited to finance (including a role in creating the Federal Reserve) but also investments in: The Rio Tinto Mining Company, the British weekly The Economist, De Beers, and fine wines (Château Mouton Rothschild, Château Lafite Rothschild). Some experts value the family’s collective wealth at a figure near $100 trillion.
DeVanity – Episode 2
DeVanity – Episode 3
Marti Resteghini is the Editor-in-Chief of The Sixth Wall. Formerly, she was the VP of Network Programming and Acquisitions at KoldCast TV. Prior to joining KoldCast, Marti served as vice president of development and production at Warner Bros.-based production company, HDFilms, where she oversaw the development, production and distribution of feature films, television and new media content across multiple platforms. In this post, Marti produced many high-profile original series including “Chadam,” “Creepshow: Raw,” based on the 1980s cult classic feature film, and Crackle’s “The Jace Hall Show.”