Giant Companies You Didn't Know Are Family-Owned

Nike flagship store at Bangkok , Thailand.

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Nike flagship store at Bangkok , Thailand.
Thank you for your assistant/istockphoto

Heiring on the Side of Profit

These are the mom-and-pop stores on steroids, huge companies that embraced nepotism to build some of the strongest brands on the planet. To categorize a public company as a family firm, the family must have a sizable stake, with “ownership control is exercised by two or more family members, either concurrently or sequentially,” says Josh Baron, co-author of the Harvard Business Review’s “Family Business Handbook. “There are many debates about what that shareholding number is, but the vast majority of the time, you know it when you see it.” Do you know of a giant family-owned company we missed? Tell us in the comments.

Related: America's Most Successful Employee-Owned Companies

The Kohler Design Center
The Kohler Design Center by Asher Heimermann (CC BY)

Kohler Co.

The Kohler Family

What started as a family-owned, Wisconsin-based plow and farm equipment manufacturing facility in 1873 evolved into a massive global plumbing company with headquarters in its namesake company town of Kohler. Herb Kohler Jr., who served as CEO for 43 years, recently passed away at 83. As the third-generation Kohler to lead the company, he acquired a slew of competitor furniture and faucet companies, created a five-diamond resort, built four golf courses, and even brought the Ryder Cup to one of his courses in Sheboygan, where the business started. David Kohler, the fourth generation of the family to lead the company, has been president and CEO since 2015.

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Walmart store entrance
Sundry Photography/istockphoto


The Walton Family

Founder Sam Walton opened the first Walmart in Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962, when he was 44. Today his family still owns about 50% of the company — a quintessential commercial behemoth worth about $400 billion, likely aided by an advantage public companies controlled by families often have: “They can have a long-term approach to decision-making rather than obsessing over quarterly earnings, as well as respond more rapidly to changing market conditions due to concentrated control,” Baron says. 

Related: Here's What the First Walmart Stores Actually Sold

Illuminated sign of Lego Store, Wiesbaden

The Lego Group

The Kristiansen Family

Parents might curse the ubiquitous, tiny, interlocking bricks when they step on them with bare feet, but the Danish family who invented them in 1958 is not sorry. (No, it’s not the Lego family. Lego is shorthand for the Danish words “leg godt,” which mean “play well.”) Founded by carpenter-turned-toymaker Ole Kirk Kristiansen, the privately held Lego Group, worth about $40 billion, is run by one of his grandchildren.

Related: Most Amazing Lego Sets of All Time



The Knight Family

Phil Knight, co-founder and chairman emeritus of the shoes-with-the-swoosh empire, still holds a great deal of power, even though Nike is a public company. (He and his son Travis elect the vast majority of board members.) The family’s estimated net worth tops $60 billion.

Related: The Most Expensive Sneakers Ever Sold at Auction

BalkansCat / istockphoto


The Ford Family

Everybody knows Henry Ford founded Ford Motor Co. But did you know his heirs are still in the driver’s seat? Ford family members maintain 40% of the voting power in the public company, so they have significant sway in what road the company takes. Other big auto companies in which family dynasties loom large include Volkswagen and BMW.

Aldi Logo


The Albrecht Family

Two German brothers, Theo and Karl Albrecht, founded this wildly successful discount supermarket chain after taking over their mother’s small shop. (Aldi is short for “Albrecht Discount.”) Globally, the private company operates more than 10,000 Aldi stores. The Aldi family bought Trader Joe’s in 1979, and it is also doing just fine.

Related: Things to Know Before Shopping at Aldi

Cargill by Kelly Martin (CC BY-SA)


The Cargill-MacMillan Family
With 155,000 employees in 70 countries, this Minnesota-based agribusiness powerhouse is one of the largest private corporations in the world. The descendants of founder William Cargill own about 90% of the company, and at least eight members of the family are billionaires. 

Related: The Richest Person in Every State


Hallmark Cards

The Hall Family

In 1903, Hallmark founder J.C. Hall left high school early and moved to Kansas City from Nebraska to try his luck selling imported postcards. His descendants still benefit from his bold moves. The company remains privately owned, with J.C.’s two grandsons serving as leaders on the board. The greeting card giant has diversified quite a bit over the past century, and its portfolio now includes crayon king Crayola and Crown Media, with its flagship offering the Hallmark Channel. 

Related: Most Beloved Christmas Collectibles

Popular Beers 6 - Heineken
Wikimedia Commons


The Heineken Family

When you raise a glass to family-owned businesses, you might want to make it a frosty mug of Heineken. The founding family still has a strong grip on this 157-year-old Netherlands-based business, the world’s second-largest brewer. In 2002, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken became one of the richest women in the world when she inherited the family’s stake in Heineken after the death of her father, longtime CEO Freddy Heineken. (He was lucky to live to age 78. Two decades earlier he and his driver were kidnapped at gunpoint but eventually rescued thanks to a Chinese food delivery. The Heineken kidnapping saga was made into a critically panned film.)

Related: Cheap Imported Beers Better Than Budweiser

New Balance Shoes

New Balance

The Davis Family

Husband and wife team Jim and Anna Davis are the chair and vice chair of the family’s winning running-shoe and activewear business. The family own 95% of the company. 

Related: Things You Didn't Know About New Balance

Johnson & Johnson Medical Products company in Markham, Ontario

SC Johnson

The Johnson Family

For 130 years, this privately held household and personal products company has been just what its current tagline says: “a family company.” There are nearly 2 million people with the surname Johnson in the world. But it’s the Johnsons of Racine, Wisconsin — descendants of Samuel Curtis Johnson — who have a reported net worth of $30 billion. 

The Perdue Family

The Perdue Family

This private company has been family-run for more than a century. Founded by Arthur Perdue in 1920, the company was put on the map by his son, Frank, who acted as the brand’s spokesperson in a series of memorable commercials in the 1970s. Two generations of Perdues work at the company now.

Related: Most Cringe-Worthy Commercials of All Time

Marriott Hotels

Marriott International

The Marriott Family

In 1927, newlyweds J. Willard and Alice Marriott opened an A&W root beer shop in Washington. It was their first move toward establishing a hospitality empire that now boasts more than 7,000 properties that include more than 30 hotel brands, including The Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, Westin, W Hotels, and Residence Inn lines. J.W. Marriott Jr., known as Bill, was the company’s CEO for 40 years, and is now the executive chair. The family still has a lot of pull — and a lot of dough. With a $10 billion fortune, the Marriotts are one of the wealthiest families in the country. 

Hand holding Red Bull Cans

Red Bull

The Yoovidhya Family 

The drink that “gives you wings” is a high-flying success story. Since Red Bull’s introduction in 1987, 75 billion cans have been sold, much to the delight of the Yoovidhya family of Thailand. The late Chaleo Yoovidhya created the energy drink and partnered with Austrian businessman Dietrich Mateschitz to found the company. Chaleo’s heirs now own 51%. (Mateschitz owns the other 49%, and is the wealthiest person in Austria.) The Yoovidhya family has a reported net worth of $13 billion, a fortune that some say gives them too much privilege. One of Chaleo’s grandchildren has yet to be held responsible after the death of a police officer some 10 years ago.

Related: The Richest Person in 40 Countries

Mars Candy


The Mars Family

Fittingly, the clan that owns this 100% private candy company is astronomically rich, with an estimated net worth of $94 billion. Some members of the family are active on the board  of the Virginia-based business. In addition to signature sweets such as Mars Bars, Snickers, and M&M’s, Mars sells pet food. 

Related: Competing Brands That Are Actually Owned by the Same Company

Hobby Lobby
J. Michael Jones / istockphoto

Hobby Lobby

The Green Family

Founder David Green opened his first Hobby Lobby in Oklahoma 50 years ago. There are now more than 900 locations in 46 states and Green is still the company’s CEO, while his son Steve is president. Over the years the crafts empire has stirred up its share of controversy due to the family’s extra-conservative religious beliefs, litigious tendencies, and interest in ancient art

Related: Billionaires Who Didn't Go to College

HEB Grocery Store in Houston, Texas


The Butt Family

With 100,000 employees and revenue of more than $30 billion a year, this privately owned Texas business is a regional supermarket superstar. (It’s no wonder that Howard E. Butt, the son of matriarch founder Florence Butt, chose to use his initials for the company’s name.) Another notable family-controlled grocery giant? Wegmans, owned by the Wegman family of New York.

Related: Regional Grocery Stores That Shoppers Love

comcast xfinity


The Roberts Family

Brian Roberts, the current CEO of this media and tech conglomerate, is the son of its founder, Ralph. Brian owns a third of the company’s voting shares and has a net worth of about $2 billion. The business, which started as a small cable provider, is now jumbo-sized, worth more than $250 billion, with a portfolio that includes such notable brands as NBCUniversal, DreamWorks Animation, and AT&T Broadband.  

Hearst Tower


The Hearst Family 

Founder William Randolph Hearst’s grandson, William R. Hearst III, is the current chair of this private company that owns hundreds of publications and dozens of TV stations and networks. The family is worth an estimated $28 billion.

Related: Famous People's Homes You Can Visit

The emblem of the corporation LG on the roof of a historic building. Illustrative editorial.


The Koo Family

The fourth generation of the founding family of this South Korean conglomerate has recently taken the reins. The company, known mostly in the United States for its appliances and TVs, also makes cosmetics. (LG is an example of a conglomerate form of business known as a chaebol, like Samsung and Hyundai.) 

Related: The Most Expensive Items Our Readers Have Bought on Amazon

estee lauder

Estée Lauder

The Lauder Family

Second- and third-generation members of the Lauder family now run this New York beauty company, founded by matriarch Estée Lauder (born Josephine Esther Mentzer) and husband Joseph in 1946. Although Estée Lauder is publicly traded, the family retains considerable control.

Related: Canadian Stores That Americans Love