The Kwok family of Hong Kong
Net Worth: $39 billion
Kwok Tak Seng grew up in his ancestral home of Zhongsan Guangdong. In the early days, Tak Seng worked as a grocery wholesaler before moving to Hong Kong after World War II.
In 1969, Tak Seng, Fund King Hey and Lee Shau Kee founded Sun Hung Kai & Co., which according to its website is currently a financing and investing firm headquartered in Hong Kong. Sun Hung Kai Properties Limited (SHKP) was separately incorporated on 14 July 1972 and was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in August of 1972.
Initially, SHKP’s focus was on building single tower blocks, but as the Hong Kong government started to establish new towns, SHKP started to develop large scale residential estates, aligning itself with governmental programs.
In the next few decades, SHKP developed various residential estates such as Sha Tin City One, Pokfulam Gardens in Island South, Elizabeth House in Wan Chai and the Multi tower Tsuen Wan centre residential estate to emerge as the largest real estate developer in Hong Kong.
In the 1980s, with uncertainty looming over the prospect of Hong Kong’s return to China, SHKP doubled down and continued to make investments and pioneered the development of large-scale integrated development such as the New Town Plaza in Sha Tin.
By late 2000, SHKP has established itself as a premier real estate developer, having completed in 2009 the iconic ION Orchard in Singapore, and in 2011, the ICC, the tallest building in Hong Kong was completed, the completion of which forms the landmark Victoria Harbour Gateway with Two IFC.
The Kwoks are Asia’s second-richest family and is the wealthiest family in Hong Kong. When the elder Mr. Kwok Tak Seng passed on in 1990, brothers Walter, Raymond, and Thomas Kwok inherited SHKP from their father Kwok Tak Seng.
In 1997, Walter Kwok was kidnapped by the notorious Hong Kong gangster Big Spender. To secure his release, apparently, the family paid a total of $80 million in ransom. After his release, Walter was said to have suffered from lingering psychological issues from the kidnap.
Walter had always been the chairman and chief executive of SHKP until 2008 when the family made an announcement that Walter would take a temporary leave of absence. However, some three months later, Walter was removed as chairman in May 2008. This arose, according to some sources, because Walter had a girlfriend whom he allowed to amass a lot of power in the family business, and this led to extreme unhappiness within the family.
In 2012, Walter’s younger brothers Thomas and Raymond, as well as Rafael Hui, a former high-ranking government official in Hong Kong, were arrested by the city’s anti-corruption agency on suspicion of bribery. Thomas Kwok and Rafael Hui were sentenced to prison terms while Raymond Kwok was cleared of all charges.
Walter Kwok died in 2018 at the age of 68, and his stakes in the business were passed on to his two children. While the third generation of Kwoks all have important roles within the business, it is not anticipated that any of them would emerge as contenders for the top job that Raymond and Thomas Kwok currently helm.
Of late, the family’s fortune has been hit by the democracy protests in Hong Kong, and it has been reported that the family suffered losses of up to $8 billion in the last 12 months alone.
The Kwoks have, however, shown time and again that they can rebound. When the Asian financial crisis and Sars plunged Hong Kong into one of its worst property bear markets from 1998 to 2003, the family invested heavily to build the International Finance Centre. The office and mall complex in the city’s Central business district is now one of Sun Hung Kai’s most iconic properties, commanding some of the highest rents worldwide.
Still, as of 2023, the Kwok family is estimated to be worth about $39 billion, notwithstanding the downturn in their fortune.
Net Worth: $53 billion
Hermès International S.A. or Hermès is a high fashion luxury goods manufacturer. It specializes in leather, lifestyle accessories, home furnishings, perfumery, jewelry, watches, and ready-to-wear. Its logo, since the 1950s, is of a Duc carriage with horse.
The Hermes empire was started in 1837 when Thierry Hermes established a harness workshop in the Grands Boulevards quarter of Paris, serving European noblemen. He created high-quality wrought harnesses and bridles for the carriage trade, winning several awards including the first prize in its class in 1855 and again in 1867 at the Expositions Universelles in Paris.
Hermes’s son, Charles-Emile took over from his father and they moved the shop to 24 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore where it is still there today. From the late 1890s through to early 1900s, Hermes expanded its presence in its native Paris and in the United States, adding to its product lines. However, it was not until the 1930s that Hermes introduced some of its most recognizable products, the Kelly bag, after Grace Kelly in 1935 and the Hermes carrès, the square Hermes scarves in 1937. These two original products are still much sought after since their creation in the 1930s.
From the 1930s on, the company expanded further, adding on to its bevy of offerings a chronograph wristwatch and more iconic women’s handbags, most notably, the Birkin bag which retails at a starting price of $8,000. In the 70s, Hermes went through a period of slow growth until the 80s when the brand flourished again, especially under Jean Paul Gaultier who was brought in to be its creative director in 2003.
Today, the house of Hermes boasts a total revenue of more than $9 billion in sales and a net income of nearly $2 billion as of 2019.
There are 16 heirs to the Hermes fortune. Pierre-Alexis and Axel Dumas are the two Dumas family members leading the company right now.
In 2011, in an act that would protect the Hermes company from a hostile takeover, the Hermes family pooled all their shares into a co-op called H51 and agreed not to sell their shares for 20 years. The vehicle owned basically more than 50% of the Hermes company, thereby effectively creating a defense to any takeover attempts.
Today, Pierre-Alexis Dumas is the creative director of Hermes, and he said of his 183-year-old company that his job was to keep the strong creativity of Hermes alive. He said: “To nourish the rigor and the vision… to make these values vibrate… is the force of Hermes”. He also believes that Hermes is a unique business model quite unlike other famous fashion houses. He believes quite simply that Hermes is a human experience!
The Dumas family is heir to a fortune that as of 2023 is estimated to be $53 billion.
Mukesh and Anil Ambani
Net Worth: $136.1 billion
Mukesh Dhirubhai Ambani is the chairman, managing director, and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL), a Fortune Global 500 company and India’s most valuable company by market value.
Reliance is an Indian multinational conglomerate headquartered in Mumbai and is involved in a diversified range of businesses from energy, petrochemicals, textiles, natural resources, retail, and telecommunications. In June 2020, Reliance became the first Indian company to exceed $150 billion in market capitalization on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
The company is ranked 96th on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world’s biggest corporations as of 2023. Reliance is responsible for almost 5% of the government of India’s total revenues from customs and excise duty. It is also the highest income taxpayer in the private sector in India. Started in 1960 by Dhirubhai Ambani and Champaklal Damani in 1960’s as Reliance Commercial Corporation. In 1965, the partnership ended and Dhirubhai Ambani continued the original polyester business of the firm. In 1966, Reliance Textiles Engineers Pvt. Ltd. was incorporated in Maharashtra. On 8 May 1973, it became Reliance Industries Limited. In 1975, the company expanded its business into textiles, with “Vimal” becoming its major brand in later years. The company held its Initial public offering (IPO) in 1977, with a seven-fold over-subscription. In the nineties, the Company would also list on the National Stock Exchange of India.
In the mid-90s, the Company entered the telecommunication business, and later in the 90s and 2000s, ventured into LPG, petroleum and petrochemical industry, retail, banking, media, and entertainment businesses.
On 6 July 2002, Mukesh’s father died after suffering a second stroke, which caused a lot of tension between Mukesh and Anil Ambani as their father, Dhirubhai, had not left a will. Their mother intervened to stop the feud, splitting the company into two, leaving Ambani with control of Reliance Industries Limited and Indian Petrochemicals Corporation Limited, and Anil Ambani with the Reliance Group, with sectors such as interests in telecom, entertainment, financial services, power, and infrastructure.
Ambani is also credited with India’s largest IPO of Reliance Power in 2008. The IPO was fully subscribed in less than 60 seconds, the fastest in the history of Indian capital markets to date.
Mukesh has two sons, Akash and Anant, and a daughter, Isha. All three children are business persons. Anant has so far been involved in sporting events including the Indian Premier League, in which RIL owns the Mumbai Indians team. Akash is credited for his role in working out a deal where Facebook invested over $5.7 billion for a 9.99 percent stake in the Jio Platform, the digital technology arm of Reliance. Isha is known to be a sharp businesswoman, a force to be reckoned with in the business world.
Anil has two sons, Jai Anmol and Jai Anshul. Anil is married to Tina Munim, a highly regarded former Bollywood actress for 13 years.
Mukesh is the richest person in Asia with an estimated net worth of US$81.1 billion as of 2023, and as of October 2020, the 6th richest in the world.
Anil was in 2019 had about $55 billion in personal wealth. But in 2020, Anil had told a court in the United Kingdom that his net worth was zero.
The Walton Family
Net Worth: $215 billion
The Walton family is the family behind the world’s largest company by revenue count. In 2019, it had a gross revenue of some $515 billion.
Sam and Bud Walton founded this multinational retail corporation, with a chain of hypermarkets, discount department stores, and grocery stores all over the United States. In the US and Canada, it operates as Walmart, but in Mexico, it is known as Walmart de Mexico y Centroamerica. In the United Kingdom, it operates as Asda and the Seiyu Group in Japan, and as Flipkart in India. Walmart also operates a chain of retail warehouses known as Sam’s Club.
Walmart was listed on the New York Exchange in 1972, and by 1988, it has become the biggest retailer in the US. During the COVID-19 pandemic, revenue soared by as much as 97% as people confined to their homes cooked more, although in 2018, 63 Sam’s Club warehouses were closed. In 2019 Walmart reported revenues of $523.96B according to Vibrant Data.
Walmart operates a variety of stores, from hypermarkets, discount stores to neighborhood markets. It has since 2006 also remodeled some of its US stores to appeal to a wider demographic, adding high-end electronics, expensive wines, and even a sushi bar in its stores.
In total Walmart operates over 6,000 stores worldwide and hires close to 800,000 employees in 26 countries outside of the US.
The Walton Family currently collectively owns under 50% of Walmart, having disposed of some shares in 2018. The principal members of the Walton family comprise Alice Walton, Jim Walton, S. Robson Walton, Lukas Walton, Ann Walton Kroenke, Nancy Walton Laurie, and Christy Walton. Sam Walton had passed on in 1992 and Bud Walton in 1995.
In 1987, Sam Walton endowed a charitable foundation. The Walton Family Foundation was primarily focused on charter schools, but it later extended its program to include environmental issues, particularly those related to water.
Of the living members of the Walton family, Alice, Jim and Robson Walton are the most prominent and have consistently been placed at the top of Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans list.
Alice was an equity analyst and money manager for First Commerce Corporation and ran her own investment bank, Llama Company. She is also an artist and art collector, having made a number of high-profile art acquisition, such as the Asher Brown Durand’s Kindred Spirit for $35 million.
Jim is currently on the Walmart board of directors, chairman of the family’s owned Arvest Bank, and chairman of newspaper firm Community Publishers Inc owned by Jim himself.
Robson Walton served as chairman of Walmart from 1992 to 2015.
As of 2023, the Walton Family has an estimated net worth of over $215 billion, which is more than the GDP of many nations per annum.
The Lee Kun-Hee family of Samsung
Net Worth: $44 billion
Lee Kun-Hee served as chairman of the Samsung Group from 1987 to 2008 and from 2010 to 2020. Kun-Hee first took over the chairmanship of the Samsung conglomerate in 1987, a couple of weeks after the death of his father, Lee Byung-chul.
Started as a trading company in 1938 by the elder Lee, Samsung diversified over the next thirty years into areas like food processing, textiles, insurance, securities, and retail. Samsung went into the electronic industry in the late 1960s and the construction and shipbuilding industries in mid-1970s.
Following Lee’s death in 1987, Samsung was separated into four business groups – Samsung Group, Shinsegae Group, CJ Group, and Hansol Group. In 1993, he set about transforming Samsung from being a manufacturer of low-quality goods to be the world’s largest manufacturer of smartphones, televisions, and memory chips today.
Since 1990, Samsung focussed on its mobile phones and semiconductors which became the other mobile phone brand if you don’t have an I-phone. As of 2023, Samsung has the 8th highest global brand value.
Samsung Electronics was the world’s largest information technology company, consumer electronics maker, and chipmaker measured by 2017 revenues. Samsung Heavy Industries were once in the early 2010s the world’s second-largest shipbuilder.
In total revenue, Samsung contributes to about 17% of South Korea’s total GDP of about $1,000 billion.
Lee Kun-Hee was convicted twice, once in 1996 and subsequently in 2008, for corruption and tax evasion charges, but was pardoned on both instances.
Lee Kun-Hee has four children, namely, Lee Jae-Yong, Lee Boo-Jin, Lee Yoon-Hyung, and Lee Seo-hyun, and six grandchildren, Lee Won-Ju, Lee Ji-ho, Im Dong-Hyun, Kim Ji-soo, Kim Jee-ie, and Lim Dong-Hyun.
Lee Kun-Hee passed away in October 2020, leaving an estimated net worth of $21 billion. His eldest son Lee Jae-Yong is the current chairman of the Samsung group.
Lee Boo-jin is the daughter of Lee Kun-hee and is the president and chief executive of the Shilla hotel group, one of the largest hotel groups of South Korea.
As of 2023, the Lee family of Samsung is estimated to have a combined wealth of over $44 billion.
Net Worth: $115 billion
The Mars family is behind the world’s most famous confectionary chocolate bars – the Mars bar, Milky Way bars, Snickers, and Twix.
American multinational manufacturer of confectionery, pet food, and other food products and a provider of animal care services.
Once ranked the 6th largest privately held company in the United States by Forbes, the company is entirely owned by the Mars family. Mars operates in five business segments around the world: Mars Wrigley Confectionary (headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, with the US headquarters in Hackettstown and Newark, New Jersey), Petcare (Zaventem, Belgium; Poncitlán and Jalisco, Mexico; Querétaro, Mexico), Food (Rancho Dominguez, California), Drinks (West Chester, Pennsylvania), and Symbioscience (Germantown, Maryland), the company’s life sciences division.
Franklin Clarence Mars started the Mars Candy Factory in 1911 in Tacoma, Washington. The factory produced and sold fresh candy wholesale, but ultimately the venture failed because there was a better-established business, Brown & Haley, also operating in Tacoma. By 1920, Mars had returned to his home state, Minnesota. Mar-O-Bar Co. was established in Minneapolis and later became Mars, Incorporated, which has survived to this day.
In 1932, Mars set up Mars Limited in the United Kingdom and has been headquartered in Slough, England ever since. Over the years Mars has diversified its businesses and products to include numerous other candies and confectionaries. The original products like Bounty, Dove, Galaxy, M&Ms, Mars, Milky Way, and Snickers have remained hugely popular to this day.
As of 2023 the combined private fortune of the family members was estimated at around $115 billion, making them one of the richest families in the world.
Koch Brothers of Koch Industries
Net Worth: $100 billion
The Koch Industries group is involved in the manufacturing, refining, energy, fiber, intermediates and polymers, minerals, fertilizers, pulp and paper, chemical technology equipment, ranching, finance, commodities trading, and investing.
Koch-owned businesses trade, transport, refine and process fossil fuels, moving them across the world and up the value chain until they become products we forget began with hydrocarbons: fertilizers, Lycra, the innards of our smartphones!
The firm employs 120,000 people in 60 countries, with about half of its business in the United States. The company is the largest non-Canadian landowner in the Athabasca oil sands.
With annual revenues of up to $100 billion, the company is the second-largest privately held company in the United States after Cargill.
Founded by Fred C. Koch in 1940, the company was initially known as Wood River Oil and Refining Company, involved in crude oil refining after Fred C. Koch discovered a novel way of converting crude oil into gasoline. Even in the early days of incorporation, the company went on to make a few strategic acquisitions before becoming Koch Industries Inc in 1967.
After Fred died in 1967, his majority interest in the company was divided between his four sons. In June 1983, after a bitter legal and boardroom battle, the stakes of Frederick R. Koch and William “Bill” Koch were bought out for $1.1 billion and Charles Koch and David Koch became majority owners in the company. Charles ended up owning 42% of the company. Trusts for the benefit of Elaine Tettemer Marshall, the daughter-in-law of J. Howard Marshall and Anna Nicole Smith, and Elaine’s children, Preston Marshall and E. Pierce Marshall Jr. own about 16% of the company, and the heirs of David Koch (who died on August 23, 2019) own the balance, 42%, of the company.
Koch Industries continued to make acquisitions from the sixties into the the early 2000s.
By 2019, Charles G. Koch and the late David H. Koch were the only ones of Fred Koch’s four sons still with Koch Industries. Throughout Charles Koch’s leadership as CEO for nearly five decades, the company has had to battle a number of legal suits and has paid record sums in penalties owing to environmental breaches.
Today better known for their political affiliation and political out-reach work, including funding the Tea Party. Charles and David Koch built a political network of libertarian and conservative donors and the brothers funneled financial revenue into television and multi-media advertising.
As of 2023, the combined wealth of the Koch family is estimated at about $100 billion.
Wertheimer Family of Chanel
Net Worth: $31 billion
There’s nothing more well-known than the iconic fragrance Chanel No. 5, the little black dress and the Chanel suit. This fashion house was started by the couturiere Coco Chanel or Gabrielle Chanel. Gabrielle gained her nickname from her days being a chanteuse. But Coco was always skilled in sewing and early on set about making hats for noble ladies.
Her shop was in the same building as the apartment her then-lover, Etienne Balsan, owned, which served as the salon for the French hunting and sporting elite, many of whom she had the opportunity to meet, and to whom she made hats for and later clothes for.
In 1910, with the help of her new lover, an English socialite, and polo player, she opened her first independent millinery shop – Chanel Modes at 21 rue Cambon, Paris. It was only in 1913, that Coco Chanel developed and made available for sale, ready to wear or pret-a-porter sports clothes for women. By 1917, Harper’s Bazaar magazine reported that the clothes produced by the House of Chanel were on the list of every buyer in Paris.
As a woman, Coco Chanel’s dress sense was boyish, preferring to don men’s shirts that she re-fashioned to the elaborate style of her time in the early 1900s.
Her simple streamlined designs soon began to catch on and it was not long that the Chanel suit was born. In the early days, the Chanel suit was made from dark one colored wool, and was quilted, but whose construction was simple yet exuded a certain chic of women in the 1920s and 1930s.
In 1921, to complement the suit of clothes, Coco Chanel commissioned the perfumer Ernest Beaux to create a signature perfume for La Maison Chanel. His perfumes included the perfume No.5, named after the number of the sample Chanel liked best. Originally, a bottle of No. 5 de Chanel was a gift to clients of Chanel. The popularity of the perfume prompted La Maison Chanel to offer it for retail sale in 1922.
In 1923, to explain the success of her clothes, Coco Chanel told Harper’s Bazaar magazine that design “simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.
When Chanel No. 5 became a hot selling item, and Coco Chanel needed funding to expand, Théophile Bader (founder of Galeries Lafayette) introduced Pierre Wertheimer to her. Together Wertheimer and Chanel established the Parfums Chanel company in which Wertheimer owned 70%, Bader, 20% and Chanel only 10%. Chanel tried to re-negotiate her 10% through an attorney she hired but eventually failed. In the meantime, she concentrated and developed her fashion line and by the time World War II came upon Europe, her clothing line had expanded.
During the war, the Wertheimer family escaped to the United States. After the war, Wertheimer came back to Paris and renegotiated with Chanel who was in exile in Switzerland. She was socially prevented from returning to Paris as she had a boyfriend during the war years who was a Nazi officer. Wertheimer eventually acquired outright all of Chanel Parfums including all commercial rights to her parfums she had been creating while in exile in Switzerland.
In the post-war years, Chanel entered another deal with Wertheimer in which he funded the expansion of her House of Chanel which was by that time one of the primary fashion houses in Paris.
When Coco Chanel died in 1971, the business was left in a bit of a lacuna; but after a time, Jacques Wertheimer, the son of Pierre Wertheimer acquired the controlling interest of the House of Chanel.
The company is owned by now Alain Wertheimer and Gérard Wertheimer, grandsons of Pierre Wertheimer.
Alain and Gerard are both based in New York, mostly, and are both principals of Chanel. The brothers own a variety of businesses including vineyards and both are keen equestrians.
As of 2023, the Wertheimer brothers have an estimated combined net worth of over $31 billion.
Boehringer, the Von Baumbach Families – Boehringer Ingelheim
Net Worth: $60 billion
The Boehringer Ingelheim group is one of the world’s 20 leading pharmaceutical companies. Headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany, Boehringer Ingelheim operates globally with 146 affiliates and a total of more than 47,700 employees. The focus of the family-owned company, founded in 1885, is researching, developing, manufacturing and marketing new medications of high therapeutic value for human and veterinary medicine.
The company’s website declares that social responsibility is an important element of the corporate culture at Boehringer Ingelheim. The company has in operation social projects, such as the initiative “Making more Health” and caring for the employees. In everything it does, the company focuses on environmental protection and sustainability.
The company is not listed and remains privately owned, unlike other giant pharma-companies. It was started in 1885 by Albert Boehringer producing tartaric acid for use in the food industry. Albert while experimenting with critic acid produced lactic acid, which he then produced on a commercial scale. In 1917, Professor Heinrich Otto Wieland, chemist, a later Nobel Prize winner, and cousin of Albert Boehringer, sets up the company’s research department.
Throughout the years and into the post-war years, the company continued to expand both in its research and product lines and expanded into veterinary science and health in the 1950s and biopharmaceuticals in the 1980s. In the late 2010, the company entered the oncology field with immunotherapeutics.
The company has an annual revenue of about $20 billion and an annual profit of some $2.8 billion, making it one of the most profitable pharmaceutical companies in the world.
The Boehringer family manages its wealth through a single family office and while little is known about the investments the family office makes, it is reported that through the family office, they have done rather well, as they have tapped on the various members of their highly skilled and qualified family members such as Sven Baumle who was a partner of KPMG to manage their assets.
As of 2023, the Boehringer family is estimated to be worth over $60 billion.
Bill Gates and family
Net Worth: $120 billion
Bill Gates an American business magnate, software developer, and philanthropist. He is best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation. During his career at Microsoft, Gates held the positions of chairman, chief executive officer (CEO), president, and chief software architect, while also being the largest individual shareholder until May 2014. He is one of the best-known entrepreneurs and pioneers of the microcomputer revolution of the 1970s and 1980s.
In June 2006, Gates transitioned to a part-time role at Microsoft and full-time work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a private charitable foundation he and his wife, Melinda Gates established in 2000. By 2014, he had stepped down as chairman of Microsoft and by March 2020, he had completely relinquished his roles on the boards of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on his philanthropic endeavors including climate change, global health and development, and education.
In 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, Bill and Melinda Gates was highly active in getting the correct messaging out and in contributing to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. So far, the foundation has pledged more than $420 million in funding to combat the virus.
As of 2023, the Gates family has an estimated net worth of over $120 billion.