There are a few ways we can quantify and determine which families are the richest in the world. There are three families that could be considered the richest family in the world. Many lists place the Walton family and their $151.5 billion net worth as obviously a contender. However, the Rothschild family and their more than century-old banking empire are also a contender with a combined net worth of $400 billion by our calculations, though other sites put that family's net worth in the trillions. And finally, how can any discussion of the richest family in the world not include the House of Saud and their net worth, which we currently place at $1.4 trillion, though the anti-corruption crackdown in Saudi Arabia has drastically affected the fortunes of a number of members of that family. So, who is the richest family in the world?
The Walton Family
The Walton family is largely considered to be the wealthiest family in the world, with a combined $151.5 billion net worth. However, we can definitely say they are the richest American family. The Walton family fortune comes, of course, from the family business. You may have heard of it. It is a little store called Walmart. The members of the Walton family are the retail behemoth's largest shareholders. The family holds more than 50% of the stock in the company. Sam Walton opened the first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Arkansas in 1962. Today, Wal-Mart is the world's largest retail company with stores all over the world.
Sam Walton's first store was a Ben Franklin franchise. Walton ran his variety store differently from the others in the chain. He stocked a variety of items and always made sure the shelves were full. His Ben Franklin location began making about $225,000 per year in revenue. Rather than renew his lease, the owners bought it back from him for $50,000. He took the money and with a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law he leased another store in a different part of Arkansas and negotiated a 99-year lease. Within three years, he was bringing in $175,000 – more than double the store's revenue before he took over.
By the mid 1950s, Sam expanded his budding retail empire to Missouri and brought his brother Bud into the company to help. Over the next eight years, the Walton brothers opened 16 stores. By 1962 it was clear to Sam that he should start his own store, so he opened the first Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas. His was a different kind of store. He sought out American manufacturers. He opened his stores in small towns that weren't far from his regional warehouses. He started his own trucking service to transport merchandise. By 1985, there were 800 Wal-Mart stores. Today, Walmart has 11,718 stores and clubs in 28 countries. Walmart is the world's largest company by revenue with over $500 billion in 2018. Walmart is the largest private employer in the world with 2.3 million employees.
As for individual members of the Walton Family, Jim Walton has a net worth of $45 billion. Alice Walton has $44 billion net worth, Rob Walton has $44 billion and John Walton has $30 billion. Lukas Walton has $12 billion, Christy Walton has $7 billion, and Ann Walton Kroenke has $5.5 billion.
With a combined net worth topping $200 billion, the Waltons are easily the richest family in the United States.
The Rothschild family invented international finance as we know it. Mayer Amschel Rothschild was the first of the famous finance family to run a bank. He established his banking business in the 1760s, and in 2005, Forbes recognized him as the seventh-most influential businessman of all time. He is considered to be the inventor of modern banking. He introduced concepts such as diversification, rapid communication, confidentiality, and high volume to the world markets.
The Rothschild empire grew from the slums of Frankfurt's 18th century Jewish ghetto seemingly overnight. One day, Mayer Rothschild ran a coin dealership and in the blink of an eye became the head of the world's richest family, with financial operations run by his five sons in London, Paris, Vienna, Naples, and Frankfurt. Historians have calculated that in relative terms, they were richer than any dynasty today — even the Saudi royal family – many times over.
By the time Mayer was 12 years old, both of his parents were dead and he left rabbinical school to learn finance. He worked as an apprentice at the firm of Wolf Jakob Oppenheimer, who provided credit to royalty and engaged in international trade, especially in bullion. Under Oppenheimer's tutelage, Rothschild learned useful knowledge in foreign trade and currency exchange before returning to the family coin trade. Mayer was able to build upon his father's relationship with Prince William and make a decent income collecting and selling rare coins. It is this trade in coins that was the basis for the Rothschild fortune. Mayer was granted the title of Court Agent in 1769, which gave him more access to money making opportunities with other princely patrons.
Eventually, Rothschild began providing banking services to Crown Prince Wilhelm, who would become Wilhelm IX in 1785. Mayer made money off revolutions – both in countries and technology. During the French Revolution, Mayer profited by providing supplies for the Austrian army with coin from the British. He also was able to predict the upcoming industrial revolution and the potential to make money from it, so he became a large importer of English textiles.
Following the French Revolution, Mayer's business expanded rapidly when he handled payments from England for the hire of Hessian mercenaries. Soon Mayer was providing credit to his customers. This is where his fortune really started to explode. In 1795 his taxable income was 4,000 gulden. A year later, it was 60,000 gulden.
The key to the Rothschild's domination was in their unity. Mayer and his five sons ran independent branches across Europe that effectively acted as one firm. The Rothschilds also, more or less, created the international bond market when they began issuing foreign bonds in sterling. And then, as profits returned to the firm, they kept it all in the family by marrying within the family. The Rothschild family absolutely dominated international finance without ever stepping foot in the United States.
Some people claim the Rothschilds empire today is worth trillions of dollars thanks to their vast interests in global currency debt, banking, real estate, art and sheer power. There are some people who go so far as to claim that the Rothschilds are the heads of a "New World Order" that controls the world's central banking system, were behind the 9/11 attacks, financed the communist revolution and own 99% of the world's news and media organizations.
As for specific members of the modern family, Sir Evelyn De Rothschild the British financier has a net worth of $20 billion. Jacob Rothschild another British investment banker has a net worth of $5 billion and Nathaniel Philip Rothschild is worth $1 billion. As a modern day empire, the family's total net worth and assets combined have been estimated to be in the $400 billion range. But it's truly impossible to get a completely accurate accounting of their wealth.
Wherever you land on their final combined net worth, the Rothschilds are easily the richest family in Europe.
The House of Saud
The House of Saud is the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia. It is made up of 15,000 family members (though the wealth belongs to 2,000 of them). The House of Saud is estimated to have a combined net worth of $1.4 trillion.
Like most royals, the Saudi royal family is incredibly private about their fortune. However, it isn't hard to see evidence of their enormous wealth when they fly around the world on private jets, own several luxury super yachts, own a $450 million DaVinci painting, and have palatial estates filled with gold furniture – including a gold plated Kleenex dispenser.
Back in the 1930s and 40s, oil really hadn't been found in significant quantities outside of the United States. However, there were local legends about oil seeping out of the ground in remote villages in Saudi Arabia. So the House of Saud went to check it out. Oil was discovered on March 3, 1938. This was good news, but the royals still had no idea how much oil they might find. For all they knew, that oil would be their only discovery.
The next Saudi oil field to strike black gold was the Ghawar oil field, which began full-time production in 1951. That field turned out to be the largest single deposit of crude oil on the planet. During its lifetime, Ghawar is expected to produce 75 to 83 billion barrels of oil. Six of the world's 30 largest oil fields are located in Saudi Arabia. Today, the state controlled oil company, Saudi Aramco, is valued at more than $2 trillion.
Because of oil, Saudi Arabia grew into one of the wealthiest and most powerful countries in the world in just 50 years and the House of Saud became the wealthiest family in the world by far.
As for individual members of the House of Saud: The Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has a net worth of $500 million. Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal has a net worth of $20 billion. Mohammed bin Salman has a net worth of $10 billion.
As we mentioned previously, when you total it all up the House of Saud has a combined net worth that easily exceeds $1 trillion. That therefore makes them the richest family in the world.