Power and wealth often come hand in hand, and can be passed down from generation to generation. Not entirely different from the monarchies and royal bloodlines of old, large sums of wealth passed from one family member to the next creates a perpetuating cycle of power concentrated within one genealogical path — a dynasty.
America has seen its fair share of dynasties, in both business and politics. Names like Kennedy, Rockefeller, Ford, Vanderbilt, and even more recently Clinton and Bush, have become permanently etched into the American lexicon, as families that are both powerful and wealthy. These families have become some of the richest in the world, sometimes using their wealth and prestige to enact positive change, and sometimes not.
Though some of the more prominent dynasties have faded with time (yet still retain huge amounts of wealth and power), modern dynasties are being cultivated and are gathering power even today. Read on to learn about five of them.
1. The Bush Family
The Bush family has gained the most amount of notoriety in the political field — both George Herbert-Walker and George W. Bush have served as President of the United States in the past 30 years alone, with the possibility of former Florida governor Jeb Bush becoming a serious Republican presidential nominee looking more and more likely. The Bushes are such a prominent political power that even conservatives are getting sick of hearing the name. To fund all of those campaigns, the Bush coffers have needed to be constantly replenished by the family’s business dealings.
The Bush dynasty has made its fortune from a range of activities, but oil and investment banking have been the biggest. The family also has close ties with the House of Saud, rulers of Saudi Arabia, helping facilitate lucrative trade deals. All told, the family is estimated to be worth upward of $60 million — although it could be much more.
2. The Kardashian Family
Though the name ‘Kardashian’ typically conjurs up thoughts of trashy reality television and giant booties, it’s hard to deny that the family has climbed from relative obscurity to a full-blown American dynasty. The family’s net worth now tops more than $100 million. Perhaps fortunately for the rest of us, the family has not put that wealth to use in terms of running for office, or any kind of real power grab. Instead they’ve used it to stay in the limelight, and to launch the careers of each member of the family.
The Kardashians have carved out a very real and substantial hunk of the American Dream for themselves, and the wealth is spread far and wide between the family’s many members. While it’s a far different dynastic makeup than that of the Kennedy or Rockefeller family, expect to hear the Kardashian name for generations to come.
3. The Murdoch Family
One of the most recognizable (and possibly reviled) names in media is that of Rupert Murdoch, an Australian who has built a media empire over the years with his company News Corporation — under which properties like FOX News and The Wall Street Journal operate. He certainly is a divisive figure, but with his media engine, Murdoch has managed to scrape together a net worth for his family of more than $14 billion.
Rupert isn’t the only prominent figure in the Murdoch family. His father, Keith, originally started to piece the family’s holdings together as far back as the early 20th century in Australia. Rupert also has several children, many of whom have worked in the family business, and seem primed to take over after his reign ends.
4. The Walton Family
It’s pretty obvious that the Walton family is, and likely will continue to be, one of America’s premiere business dynasties. The family’s fortune was built from its chain of big-box retail stores, the first of which was opened up in Arkansas back in the early 1960s by founder Sam Walton. Since that time, the Wal-Mart company has grown to become the nation’s largest private employer, raking in billions upon billions in profits per year.
The company is now under control of Sam Walton’s children and their families. Combined, the family has accumulated wealth accounting for more than $150 billion. Two of the Walton family heirs, Alice and Christy, are among the three richest women in the world. Jim Walton, another heir, is among the richest people in the world with a personal fortune topping $36 billion.
5. The Koch Family
The Kochs have certainly made a name for themselves, with their signature brand of conservatism, political clout, and multi-billion dollar business holdings. Koch Industries, helmed by brothers Charles and David, is one of the biggest private companies in the country, with a diverse range of business activities, including energy production, agriculture, and the production of a slew of household retail products.
The Koch brothers are the sons of Fred Koch, who started a petroleum company called Rock Island Oil & Refining Company. (It was eventually renamed Koch Industries by his heirs.) It’s unclear who will take over the Koch dynasty after Charles and David eventually fade away, but the family’s influence, and fortunes, run deep. The Kochs have been able to blend politics and business in a way that few others have matched, creating a power network that is rare, and not easily taken apart.
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