Family businesses are often located in the middle class. The descendants of the founder are in charge of the largest corporation in the world. Quality, tradition and foresight are naturally often capitalized in family-run companies. If there is then the necessary urge to innovate, a family business can still be the industry leader over 100 years after it was founded. Family-run companies are particularly successful in the USA and Germany. They have nine of the top ten places in the ranking of the largest family businesses in the world by EY and the University of St. Gallen.
The most successful family businesses worldwide
For the “Family Business Index”, 500 companies were rated according to their turnover. The analysts took into account companies that are to a considerable extent family-owned (over 50 percent in private companies and at least 32 percent in public companies) and in which at least one family member is active on the company management or on the board of directors. Companies with founder CEOs were disregarded. For the experts, it is only a truly family-run company when the founder’s children or nieces and nephews take over the helm. The youngest company in the top 10 was founded in 1962.
The third edition of the “Family Business Index” was published in 2019. The experts attested family businesses to stronger growth. Their total sales increased by 9.9 percent compared to the previous ranking from 2017. That of the Fortune 500 companies only increased by 8.6 percent in the same period.
These are the largest family businesses in the world
@imago images / Sven Simon
# 10 Robert Bosch GmbH
The current edition of the “Family Business Index” has listed many newcomers from Germany. This included Robert Bosch GmbH. With 94.63 billion US dollars, it was able to place itself right at the tenth largest family company in terms of turnover in the world. According to the information, the group is 99.0 percent owned by the family of the company founder. A family member was represented on the Supervisory Board at the time the ranking was published. Bosch was founded in 1886 and is the second oldest company in the top 10.
# 9 Schwarz Group
Ninth place also goes to Germany. The Schwarz Group, to which Lidl and Kaufland belong, is included in the index with annual sales of 109.65 billion dollars and is the first company in the ranking to break into the three-digit range. The group, founded in 1930, is wholly owned by the Schwarz family. All three members of the Executive Board also come from their ranks.
@imago images / ZUMA Press
# 8 Cargill, Inc.
The US food company Cargill is also one hundred percent family-owned. The company, founded in 1865, was ranked eighth of the largest family companies in the world with sales of $ 109.70 billion. Cargill is the largest privately held company in the United States by sales.
@imago images / ZUMA Press
# 7 Koch Industries Inc.
Some family businesses are less known for their economic success. The brothers Charles and David Koch have achieved international fame as supporters of the Tea Party movement in the Republican Party worth billions. The company’s founder’s sons each controlled 42 percent of the oil and chemical consortium. David Koch’s share passed to his wife and children after his death in 2019. Julia Koch became the third richest woman in the world in one fell swoop. The turnover of Koch Industries was estimated in the ranking at 110.00 billion dollars. Two members of the family sat on the board of directors. With Charles Koch, the position of CEO is also a family affair, a rarity among the world’s largest family corporations.
@imago images / The video manufacturer
# 6 BMW
BMW ranks sixth in the current “Family Business Index” with sales of 118.80 billion dollars. 46.82 percent of the shares in the corporation were therefore owned by the Quandt family, and two family members sat on the supervisory board of the car manufacturer founded in 1916. Incidentally, every second company in the top 10 came from the field of “advanced manufacturing / mobility”. The German auto industry played a major role in this.
@imago images / Alexander Pohl
# 5 Ford Motor Company
But a car manufacturer from the USA has also made it into the ten largest family businesses in the world. The Ford Motor Company, founded in 1903, was fifth with $ 156.78 billion in sales. According to EY and the University of St. Gallen, 40.0 percent of the stock corporation is owned by the descendants of Henry Ford. Two sit on the Ford supervisory board.
# 4 exor
Only one company was able to break the domination of family businesses from Germany and the USA. This was achieved by the Exor Holding, which, according to the ranking, is 52.99 percent owned by the descendants of Fiat founder Giovanni Agnelli. Investments in FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles), Ferrari, Juventus Turin or “The Economist” led to an annual turnover of 170.82 billion dollars.
@imago images / Xinhua
# 3 Berkshire Hathaway, Inc.
Founding CEOs shouldn’t be on this list of family businesses. Investor legend Warren Buffet remains firmly in control of Berkshire Hathaway. But because his son Howard Buffet is on the board, EY and the University of St. Gallen count the holding company, founded in 1955, as a family company. Sales of $ 242.14 billion meant third place worldwide.
@imago images / The video manufacturer
# 2 Volkswagen AG
Volkswagen is in the “Family Business Index” with $ 287.90 billion, the second largest family company in the world and number one in this country. The descendants of the company’s founder Ferdinand Porsche hold 52.2 percent of the car company founded in 1937. Ferdinand Oliver and Wolfgang Porsche as well as Hans Michel Piëch sit on the supervisory board. Anton Piëch was Ferdinand Porsche’s son-in-law.
# 1 Walmart
The largest corporation in the world is a family business. US retail giant Walmart tops the list with $ 485.87 billion in sales. According to the information, the family of the founder Sam Walton holds 50.83 percent of the shares in the listed company and is represented by three members on the supervisory board. Three of the ten largest family companies came from the “consumer / retail” category. Walmart has expanded its supremacy since the ranking was published. The group’s sales had risen to $ 524.0 billion in 2019, partly due to a boom in online retail. And until Jeff Bezos does not place one of his four children or nieces and nephews at the top of Amazon, Walmart should not be able to dispute Walmart for the title of the largest family company anytime soon.