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The top ten largest family businesses worldwide


The world's 500 largest family businesses recently generated 7.28 trillion dollars. German companies are also among the top ten of the index compiled by EY and the University of St. Gallen. WHU professor Nadine Kammerlander explains what makes German family businesses so special.

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The Schwarz Group, along with Lidl and Kaufland, is one of the largest family businesses in the world

Photo: Sven Severing / imago images / Jan Huebner

The corona crisis is leaving its mark on family businesses all over the world. Shutdowns, curfews, factory closings or travel bans affect the various industries more and less severely. Anyone who is anchored in the tourism industry is groaning under the corona burden. Anyone who works in the food retail or medical technology sector with their company is one of the winners of this time.

The corona crisis has also strengthened the long-term champion: the US retail giant Walmart is once again leading the ranking of the family businesses with the highest turnover in the world. In fact, Wal-Mart was able to significantly increase sales compared to the previous year and increase the gap to the runner-up in this year's Family Business Index. The index is compiled every two years by the University of St. Gallen and the consulting company EY.

But the ranking comes as a surprise. While Volkswagen was last in second place, the Wolfsburg-based company no longer appears in the ranking. The reason: Volkswagen is no longer assigned the status of family company. According to St. Gallen, the Porsche and Piech families no longer exert any influence on Volkswagen in practice. VW works more like an investment for the families. In return, however, the car manufacturer Porsche, which belongs to the Volkswagen Group, was included in the ranking (39th place), for which the scientists found a direct influence of families.

But even without VW, German companies are still represented in the top ten worldwide.

In fourth place is the Schwarz Group, which, together with the retail chains Lidl and Kaufland, practically forms the German counterpart to the US front-runner Walmart.

But the German car manufacturer BMW, the majority of which is owned by the Quandt family and their heirs, made it into the top ten.

The criteria for family businesses

The Family Business Index 500 lists the 500 largest family-run companies worldwide.

This excludes companies that have not published any financial statements in the past 24 months.

On the one hand, the criteria are that the company must be run by at least the second generation.

One or more family members must be involved in running the company, either on the board of directors, in the management or on the supervisory board.

On the other hand, the family must have a significant share in the company.

Family businesses are private companies in which families hold shares or voting rights of 50 percent or, in public companies, a share of at least 32 percent.

Only one company per family is listed in the index.


Walmart unfold

Turnover 2021: 559.1

On the stock exchange: yes

Employees: 2,300,000

Family: Walton

Family share: 48.9 percent


Founding year: 1962

The world's largest retailer earned a total of $ 559.2 billion in the past fiscal year 2021, with profits estimated at $ 9.9 billion.

Behind the company, which was founded in the USA in 1962, is the Walton family, who are number one in the "Forbes" ranking of the richest families in the world.

The family holds 48.9 percent of the shares in Walmart through Walton Enterprises, the Walton Family Holdings Trust and directly.

One family member is represented on the supervisory board.

The Walton family also tops the Bloomberg ranking of the richest families in the world.

Her total net worth is estimated at $ 238.2 billion.


Berkshire Hathaway unfold

Turnover 2020: 245.5

On the stock exchange: yes

Employees: 360,000

Family: Buffett

Family share: 37.2 percent


Founding year: 1955

The US holding was founded in 1955.

Since 1970 stock market guru

Warren Buffett

(91) has led Berkshire Hathaway, whose stocks top the ranking of the most expensive stocks in the world.

The Buffett family owns 37.3 percent of the shares in Berkshire Hathaway.

There are two family members on the supervisory board, at the same time the CEO position with the founder remains in family hands.

In May of this year, the investor legend chose his successor.

You can find out more about Buffet and its activities here.


Open Exor SpA (NV)

Turnover 2020: 145.3

On the stock exchange: yes

Employees: 343,415

Family: Agnelli

Family share: 53 percent


Founding year: 1927

Holding Exor SpA is one of Europe's leading investment companies.

The company is run by the Agnelli offspring

John Jacob Philip Elkann


With Exor, the family is involved in various companies, including Stellantis (largest single shareholder).

Ferrari, CNH Industrial, Juventus Football Club and the media company Economist Group.

On the one hand, Elkann leads Exor and is also represented by the supervisory board chairman of Stellantis, the merger of Fiat and Groupe PSA.

Read more about the comeback of the Agnelli family here.


Black expand group

Turnover 2020: 140 billion dollars

On the stock exchange: no

Employees: 450,000

Family: Schwarz

Family share: 100 percent

Headquarters: Neckarsulm

Founding year: 1930

According to the index, the German family business with retailers Lidl and Kaufland had sales of 140 billion dollars in the past financial year.

It is expected that the recycling division will play an even more important role in the group in the future.

For a long time, veteran

Klaus Gehrig

(73) directed the group, but at the beginning of July this year, the 70-year-old was given

leave of absence

by owner

Dieter Schwarz


Gerd Chrzuanowski


has now taken a

seat on the executive



Everything you need to know about the reorganization of the Lidl empire and why the family boss has returned can be read here.


Ford Motor Company unfold

Sales 2020: $ 127.1 billion

On the stock market: yes

Employees: 186,000

Family: Ford

Family share: 40 percent

Headquarters: Dearborn, Michigan, USA

Founded: 1919

The American car manufacturer was founded by Henry Ford over 100 years ago.

Two of his descendants are currently represented on the Board of Directors.

Like others, the company is currently struggling with the chip crisis and changes in the industry.

Local unionists criticize that the carmaker is sleeping through the e-age.

From 2030 Ford only wants to sell electric cars in Europe.

In the USA, the manufacturer had an exchange of blows with Tesla founder

Elon Musk

(50), who complained that Ford had its E-Mustang manufactured in Mexico instead of in the USA.


Unfold BMW

Turnover 2020: 122.2 billion dollars

On the stock exchange: yes

Employees: 120.726

Family: Quandt

Family share: 46.8 percent

Head office: Munich

Founding year: 1916

Corona crisis and a lack of chips are affecting the Munich carmaker: Sales shrank to 98.99 billion euros in 2020.

But after the strong first quarter of 2021 with a healthy profit, the Munich-based carmaker has already ticked off the Corona year 2020 again.

The pandemic is no longer frightening, rather it is the rapidly rising raw material prices and the lack of chips that are causing the management to worry lines.

As a result, the production restrictions are already dampening the prospects for the second half of the year.

Read here in the interview

which strategy BMW boss

Oliver Zipse

(57) is pursuing for the group.

The Quandt family is behind BMW.

The dazzling figures of the family are the two heirs Susanne Klatten (59) and Stefan Quandt, who both have a seat on the BMW supervisory board.

The family's total fortune is estimated at $ 42.3 billion, according to Bloomberg.

This puts the clan in 16th place among the richest families in the world.


Koch Industries open

Turnover 2019: 115 billion dollars

On the stock exchange: no

Employees: 122,000

Family: Koch

Family share: 84 percent

Headquarters: Wichita, Kansas, USA

Founded: 1940

The mixed company, founded in 1940, operates in the crude oil, natural gas, chemical, energy, asphalt, fertilizer, food, glass and plastic industries. Behind the conglomerate with companies such as Molex, Invista or Walldorf Automation and Computertechnik were the two brothers Charles and David Koch, who ran the company in the second generation, for a long time. It is headed by Charles, who is over 80 years old and acts both as Chairman of the Board of Directors and CEO. Brother David died in 2019, whose widow Julia Koch (58) lists "Forbes" as the fourth richest woman in the world. The family still owns 84 percent of the shares in the conglomerate. In Bloomberg's ranking of the richest families, the Kochs ranked third with total assets of $ 124.4 billion.

Most recently, Charles Koch pushed the real estate business during the pandemic, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The 85-year-old billionaire bought an unfinished multi-billion dollar hotel and casino in Las Vegas and invested in the real estate funds Ladder Capital and Amherst Holdings.

Koch also had his fingers in the game when the US media company Meredith Corporation bought The Times in 2017.

At that time, the Koch Equity Development fund supported the transaction.

For decades, the Kochs were politically active in the conservative spectrum - they are considered both climate change deniers and pioneers of the Tea Party movement and, ultimately, of Donald Trump.

More recently, however, the Kochs are said to have been involved in organizations that are part of the democratic camp.


Expand Cargill, Inc.

Turnover 2020: 114.6 billion dollars

On the stock exchange: no

Employees: 114,000

Family: Cargill, MacMillan

Family share: 85 percent

Headquarters: Minnetonka, Minnesota, USA

Founded: 1865

The US food company Cargill is one of the largest in its guild.

The products include seeds as well as animal feed and food ingredients. In addition, Cargill is one of the largest meat producers in the world and is also trying to keep up with the vegan diet.

In addition, the group also has a sizeable transport fleet consisting of container ships.

Business is booming.

Sales rose significantly in the corona year.

Despite their high stake in the company, the Cargill MacMillan family is no longer operational.

She ranks 11th in Bloomberg's ranking of the world's richest families. Her fortune is estimated at $ 51.6 billion.


Expand Comcast Corp.

Sales 2020: $ 103.6 billion

On the stock market: yes

Employees: 168,000

Family: Roberts'

family share: 33.8 percent

Headquarters: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Founded: 1963

Once founded as a cable television company, Comcast Corp.

has grown into a media group that is considered the second largest internet provider in the world.

The group has been represented in Europe since the takeover of the Sky Group.

Comcast grew primarily through acquisitions such as those of the retail channel QVC, the cable television division of AT&T and NBC Universal.

The latter takeover made it possible to access the Universal Hollywood studio.

The Roberts family is behind the group.

Comcast founder Ralph J. Roberts led the company as CEO for 46 years.

Years ago, his son Brian L. (62) followed in his footsteps.

Under his aegis, the fifth universal amusement park in Asia was opened in China at the beginning of September.


Dell Technologies Incfold

Sales 2020: 94.2 billion dollars

On the stock exchange: yes

Employees: 158,000

Family: Dell

Family share: 75 percent

Headquarters: Round Rock, Texas, USA

Founded: 1984

Like other hardware manufacturers, the computer manufacturer also benefited from the corona pandemic.

Suddenly, a number of employees, but also schoolchildren, had to be provided with laptops, tablets and computers.

The company, which is still managed by founder Michael Dell (56), closed the 2021 financial year (end of January) with a significant increase in sales.

Since its inception, Dell has bought various companies.

The biggest takeover to date is certainly the acquisition of storage specialist EMC in 2016.

Dell had the purchase cost 67 billion dollars.

With this takeover at the latest, Dell also established itself in the areas of data centers and data center infrastructure as well as consulting.

With an estimated fortune of $ 51.6 billion, Michael Dell ranks 30th among the richest people in the world in the Forbes ranking.

Family businesses make decisions faster

Together, the 500 companies listed last had a turnover of 7.28 trillion US dollars and employed 24.1 million people, report the authors of the index.

But what makes family businesses different from others?

Nadine Kammerlander

(38), professor at the Otto Beisheim School of Management, said in an interview with manager magazin that goals and structure are features that distinguish family businesses from others.

Family businesses often have a leaner structure and are driven by long-term goals.

Other companies, on the other hand, are being driven from quarter to quarter for a shorter period of time.

Nadine Kammerlander: Lean structures and long-term goals are what set German family businesses apart

The economist explains further: "Families are often the reputation of the company and thus the family important." That plays a role, for example, when it comes to the question of the location. "One family may not decide to relocate while another company does." This also has a special effect on the company's culture, and employees from family businesses often stay on board for a longer period of time. In addition, in family businesses, decisions are usually made more centrally and more quickly. On the other hand, smaller family-run companies would find it more difficult to give up control - in the form of capital in banks or funds. Haribo, for example, has been practicing this for a long time and has not borrowed from banks.

Corona crisis drives change

It is undisputed that the pandemic posed major challenges to companies around the world.

"During this time, many companies drove on sight," reports the WHU professor.

But there were also companies that accepted the phase as an opportunity and invested heavily in digitization. "The corona crisis is a kind of trigger for change," said Kammerlander.

Those who did not deal with the topic of digitization fell behind.

The pandemic has accelerated this process and "separated the wheat from the chaff".

Sometimes the descendants find it difficult to rearrange, set up differently or even replace what 'grandpa built'. "


Source: spiegel

All news articles on 2021-09-25

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