Every year, the list of the 400 richest people in the United States is released. This year, the collective wealth of those 400 people is $2.96 trillion – up 2.2% from last year – with 27 billionaires dropping off the list. Five of those 27 were due to death, like Paul Allen and David Koch. The remaining 22 fell off the coveted list because their net worths fell below $2.1 billion, which was the minimum needed for inclusion on the list this year.
Four of those people are sisters Alexandra Daitch, Sarah MacMillan, Lucy Stitzer, and Katherine Tanner, who each have a net worth of $1.7 billion, down from $2.1 billion each last year. The sisters are the daughters of W. Duncan MacMillan and members of the Cargill-MacMillan family, the 9th wealthiest family in the world, with a combined $42.3 billion net worth. This family dynasty owns Cargill Inc., the largest closely held company in the U.S. It was founded by William W. Cargill, who started the commodities business with one grain storage warehouse in Conover, Iowa, in 1865. His descendants maintain control of the food, agriculture and industrial giant. There are 14 living members of the Cargill family and they are all billionaires. W. Duncan MacMillan was a member of the Cargill board of directors for three decades. He died in 2006 as the 216th richest man in the United States.
MacMillan was the great grandson of W.W. Cargill, who founded his own grain storage company in 1865 in Iowa when he was in his 20s. Two years later, he brought his younger brothers, Sam and Sylvester, into the business. Cargill also expanded into lumber. Ten years after he founded his grain storage business, he brought his other brother James on board. When William got pneumonia and died in 1909, he left the company to his wife. She passed away unexpectedly a few months after he did, so the company was divided between his four children. John H. MacMillan Sr., his son-in-law, became president of the company.
MacMillan had a good head for business and under his leadership the company was saved from the brink of going under. He put a solid financial plan in place and the company grew consistently. Until 1960, either a Cargill or MacMillan served as CEO of the company. Erwin Kelm was the first non-family member to run the business. He diversified the company into freight, shipping, and commodities. In the late 1970s, Whitney MacMillan took over the family business. He grew the company's revenue to nearly $30 billion annually.
Cargill remains a family-owned business as the descendants of the founder from the Cargill and MacMillan families own over 90% of it. It is the largest privately-owned company in America. They are a notoriously private family. Most of them live on large ranches in Wisconsin, Montana, and Minnesota. They rarely give interviews, they avoid the spotlight, and it's rare to see any of them mentioned in magazines or newspapers.
Alexandra Daitch, Sarah MacMillan, Lucy Stitzer, and Katherine Tanner joined the billionaire club in 2014. They joined six other descendants of Cargill who were already billionaires.
The family business is having a rough year. In July, Cargill reported a 41% drop in its Q4 profit – $476 million in the quarter ending, May 31. A year earlier, that same quarter had $809 million in profits. A combination of extreme weather, a deadly pig virus, and the fallout from the trade war with China are to blame, according to the Financial Times.
Only two of the family's 14 billionaire heirs made the list of the 400 wealthiest Americans – Austen Cargill II and James Cargill II are tied as the 225th wealthiest in the U.S. Each has a net worth of $3.6 billion.