Richest BusinessExecutives
Net Worth:
$400 Million
Sep 6, 1888 - Nov 18, 1969 (81 years old)
Politician, Businessperson, Investor, Diplomat, Film Producer, Official
United States of America
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What was Joseph Kennedy's net worth?

Joseph Kennedy was an American businessman, politician, and investor who had a net worth of $400 million at the time of his death in 1969. That's the same as roughly $3.2 billion today after adjusting for inflation. In 1957, Fortune Magazine estimated Kennedy's net worth at $200 – $400 million which made him one of the 15 richest people in the country. Joseph Kennedy was born in Boston, Massachusetts in September 1888 and passed away on November 18, 1969 at 81 years old. He was married to Rose Kennedy and was the father of President John F. Kennedy, Senator and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, and Senator Ted Kennedy.

Joseph Kennedy's life was marked by extraordinary achievements and immense wealth. Contrary to popular legend, Kennedy did not accumulate his fortune through bootlegging. His wealth was actually derived primarily from stock market investments, real estate, and financing Hollywood films. He did have large investments in the legal liquor importing and distribution business after prohibition was lifted. As the patriarch of the influential Kennedy family, Joseph played a significant role in shaping the political landscape of the United States in the 20th century.

Personal Wealth

After graduating from Harvard in 1912, Kennedy went to work for the Columbia Trust Bank. When the bank was facing a financial crisis, Joseph borrowed $45,000 from friends and family (roughly $1.1 million today) to buy a controlling interest in the bank. He quickly proved himself to be a talented entrepreneur. Kennedy became a millionaire for the first time thanks to the 1920s bull market. He then took many short positions in 1929 right before the market crashed. He would later claim that he knew it was time to get out of the highly-hyped stock market when he started receiving tips from his shoe-shine boy. During the depression Kennedy bought vast amounts of real estate at extremely low prices. In 1929, his net worth was estimated at $4 million (roughly $60 million today). Within six years his net worth was believed to be around $180 million (roughly $3 billion today). In his later career, Kennedy made huge profits investing in Hollywood film studios.

Early Life

Joseph Patrick Kennedy was born on September 6, 1888, in the predominantly Irish-American neighborhood of East Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Patrick Joseph Kennedy, a successful businessman and influential figure in the local Democratic Party, and Mary Augusta Hickey, a skilled pianist and community leader. Joseph was the couple's first child, and he grew up alongside three siblings. He attended Boston Latin School and then Harvard College, where he excelled academically and athletically, graduating in 1912.

Early Business Career

After graduating from Harvard, Kennedy briefly worked at a bank before entering the world of business. He married Rose Fitzgerald, the daughter of a prominent Boston politician, in 1914, and their union formed a powerful alliance between the Kennedy and Fitzgerald families. During Prohibition, Kennedy was rumored to be involved in bootlegging, although this claim has never been definitively proven. However, it is clear that he used his political connections and business acumen to build a profitable liquor distribution business, which helped him establish a strong financial foundation for his later investments.


Stock Market Fortune

Kennedy's success in the stock market played a significant role in his rise to wealth and prominence. He began investing in stocks in the 1920s, using both his own funds and borrowed money. His aggressive investment style and keen intuition helped him to amass a fortune. Recognizing the signs of the impending stock market crash in 1929, Kennedy sold most of his stock holdings before the collapse, preserving his wealth and further enhancing his reputation as a shrewd investor.

Real Estate Investments

In addition to his stock market success, Kennedy was heavily involved in real estate investments. He began by purchasing apartment buildings and commercial properties in Boston and later expanded his portfolio to include real estate in New York City, Chicago, and other major urban centers. His focus on prime locations and strong management practices allowed him to generate significant profits from his holdings, which he reinvested into his other ventures.

Hollywood Financing

During the late 1920s and early 1930s, Kennedy ventured into the world of Hollywood, where he provided financing for a number of film studios and production companies. In 1926, he purchased a majority stake in Film Booking Offices of America (FBO), a struggling film studio. He later acquired control of Pathe Exchange, another production company, and merged the two to form RKO Pictures. Kennedy's leadership and financial expertise helped turn RKO into one of the most successful studios of the era, producing such classics as "King Kong" (1933) and "Citizen Kane" (1941).

Peak Fortune

By the late 1930s, Joseph Kennedy's various ventures had made him one of the wealthiest men in the United States, with an estimated net worth of $400 million. He used his fortune and influence to support the political ambitions of his sons, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Edward M. Kennedy, all of whom went on to have successful careers in public service.


Joe Kennedy suffered a stroke in 1961. As a result he developed aphasia and lost his ability to speak. Joseph P. Kennedy passed away on November 18, 1969 at 81 years old.

All net worths are calculated using data drawn from public sources. When provided, we also incorporate private tips and feedback received from the celebrities or their representatives. While we work diligently to ensure that our numbers are as accurate as possible, unless otherwise indicated they are only estimates. We welcome all corrections and feedback using the button below.
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