As if inheriting a multi-billion dollar fortune wasn't cool enough, imagine inheriting a multi-billion dollar fortune made entirely from beer! Sounds like Homer Simpson's ultimate fantasy right? Well this dream scenario is a reality for a Dutch woman named Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken is currently the richest person in the Netherlands with a personal fortune of $10.5 billion. Based on her name (and the title of this article), you've probably figured out by now that Charlene's massive fortune comes from the Dutch brewing company Heineken, the third largest beer producer in the world. So crack open a cold Heineken and sit back as you take in the story of the Richest Person in the Netherlands, Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken.
Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken was born on June 30, 1954 in Amsterdam. Her father was Freddy Heineken, a Dutch businessman who ran the Heineken Company that his grandfather founded. Charlene's mother was Lucille Cummins, an American from Kentucky whose family were bourbon distillers. Freddy actually bought back the majority of his family's beer brewery during the 1940s, and in 1952 created Heineken Holding to ensure ongoing family control in perpetuity. During his years at the helm of Heineken, Freddy was instrumental in launching Heineken from a regional brewer to the world's third-largest beer producer. Freddy's main focus was on increasing brand awareness on a global scale through marketing and acquisitions.
The booze business is in Charlene's genes. She attended the University of Leiden, where she studied law, but transferred to the University of Geneva where she obtained a degree in French literature. She married Harvard graduate Michel de Carvalho, a former actor (under the stage name Michael Ray) and Olympic luger she met while on a ski holiday in Switzerland.
When Freddy Heineken died in 2002, Charlene inherited his $4.8 billion fortune and a 50% controlling interest in the family beer business. As we mentioned earlier, today Heineken is the world's third largest beer manufacturer in the world. The company manufactures more than 250 different kinds of beer, operates in over 170 countries and in 2012 generated revenues of $24 billion. As if all that wasn't cool enough, Heineken is now the official beer of James Bond. In 2012 Heineken spent a whopping $45 million to have Daniel Craig sip their beer in the Bond film Skyfall.
While Charlene's father was a flamboyant character of the jet set lifestyle (he owned a yacht named "Something Cool"), Charlene lives a very private life with her husband and five children. The family actually spends the majority of their time in London, not Amsterdam. After college, Charlene interned at Heineken, but never showed an interest in joining the family business. Since her father's death, she has sat on the board of management of Heineken and her husband has been a member of the supervisory board for the same period of time.
Charlene owns half of the Dutch beer company through Heineken Holding, the investment company created by her father in 1952 to ensure the independence of the brewery and safeguard it against hostile takeover attempts. Charlene de Carvalho's fortune surpasses that of Princess Beatrix, yet she remains an elusive and private figure. An analysis of de Carvalho-Heineken's cash and investments shows more than $1 billion readily available to her based on information in public documents. De Carvalho-Heineken runs two foundations named after her father and grandfather. These foundation award cash prizes to academics and artists every two years.
It would be pretty cool to be a beer heiress (or in my case a wine heiress), and over the last 10 years Charlene has a vigilant protector of the family interests and wealth. Considering the market for beer consumption will only increase with time, so too will Charlene's already massive fortune.