The 10 Biggest Family Businesses in the U.S.

by Staff Writer

When it comes to family businesses, blood and money really do mix. Some of today's biggest and most successful businesses have pledged to keep it in the family to ensure that the original ideals and vision of the company remain intact. Generation after generation, family members are groomed to take over the business and carry on the family tradition of hard work and leadership. Check out these 10 family businesses that made it big:

  1. Wal-Mart

    Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer and most successful family business of all time. In 1962, founder Sam Walton took his knowledge of discount retailing and opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Ark. It wasn't long before Sam expanded his business and opened up hundreds, then thousands of stores worldwide. After Walton died in 1992, his empire was passed on to his wife and children. Rob Walton succeeded his father as chairman of Wal-Mart, and his brother, John, served on a company committee that oversaw Wal-Mart's finances and future projects until his death in 2005. Walton's other children have distanced themselves from the family business, but remain important shareholders of the mega corporation.

  2. Mars

    Mars is one of the world's largest and most successful manufacturers of chocolate, confection, gum, drinks, and pet care products. The candy giant was started by Frank C. Mars in 1911, and it grew exponentially with the introduction of the incredibly popular Milky Way candy bar. The company was later acquired by his only son, Forrest Mars, who helped launch the brand internationally. Although Mars is run by a non-family member today, the company still remains in the Mars family name and its members make up the board of directors.

  3. Comcast

    Comcast is the largest cable operator and home Internet service provider in the United States. It's also one of the biggest and most successful family-owned companies of all time. Founder Ralph J. Roberts transformed Comcast Corporation from a small, Mississippi cable-TV business to a billion-dollar media conglomerate. Regardless of how big Comcast has gotten, the Roberts family has remained very involved in the business. As of 2011, Ralph Roberts serves as the chairman emeritus and his son, Brian, is the current CEO.

  4. News Corporation

    News Corporation is one of the largest media conglomerates in the world. The company was founded by Rupert Murdoch in 1979 and has expanded into a global empire, earning roughly $33.4 billion each year. Some of Murdoch's children have taken a stake in the company, including his son, James, who has been embroiled in the recent phone-hacking scandal in the UK. Although James has been groomed to take over his father's company, the scandal may affect his chances of becoming successor.

  5. Ford Motor Company

    Ford Motor Company is the second-largest automaker in the U.S. and one of the biggest family businesses of all time. Ford's rich history begins with its legendary founder, Henry Ford, whose innovation and strong leadership lead to the creation of the first affordable automobile, the Ford Model T. For more than 100 years, the Ford family has maintained control of the automotive company. The founder's great-grandson, William Clay Ford, Jr., currently serves as the executive chairman and two other family members sit on the board.

  6. Carlson

    Carlson is a private, global hospitality and travel company that owns Radisson, Country Inns & Suites, and T.G.I. Friday's. Curt Carlson founded the multipurpose company in 1938, and his innovative idea to use Gold Bond Stamps to encourage customer loyalty helped make Carlson a huge success. Before Curt died, he made his daughter Marilyn Carlson Nelson the next CEO. Marilyn was replaced by Hubert Joly in 2008, but she maintains a key role on the board.

  7. Cargill Inc.

    Cargill is a private agriculture business that specializes in the manufacture and distribution of crops and livestock. William W. Cargill founded the company in 1865 and, with the help of his two brothers, Cargill Inc. transformed from a small grain storage facility in the Midwest to a major producer and marketer of agricultural and industrial goods and services. Although Cargill hired its first non-family member as CEO, the descendants of William W. Cargill still own more than 85% of the company.

  8. Bechtel Corporation

    Bechtel Corporation is the largest engineering company in the United States, best known for helping in the construction of the Hoover Dam, as well as the BART system, and the Channel Tunnel. Since its creation in 1898, Bechtel has always functioned as a family-owned business. This family empire has faced a great deal of criticism for its project choices, privacy restrictions, and political clout. Today, the great-grandson of founder Warren Bechtel serves as the CEO of the company.

  9. Koch Industries

    Koch Industries is a large and highly successful multipurpose corporation that owns several diverse businesses, including Georgia-Pacific, Invista, Flint Hills Resources, Koch Pipeline, Koch Fertilizer, and Matador Cattle Company. In 1940, Fred C. Koch co-founded the company, which was built on an innovative procedure of converting oil into gasoline. Since Fred's passing, his sons, David and Charles, inherited the business and each own 42% of Koch Industries.

  10. Motorola

    Motorola is known for its cell phones and electronics, but some might be surprised to know that this giant telecommunications company is also a family-run business. Brothers Paul and Joseph Galvin founded Motorola in 1928, and together they launched the first commercial car radio, called the Motorola. In 1959, Paul's son, Robert Galvin, took over the company and oversaw the production of DynaTac, the first cellular phone. His son, Chris, ran Motorola from 1997 to 2003, before being excommunicated by the board and replaced by a non-family member. Although the Galvin family has lost control of the company in recent years, it will always go down in history as one of the biggest and most successful family businesses.

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