The Walton family is America’s richest. Sam Walton founded Walmart, the world’s largest retailer by revenue. According to Bloomberg, the company has annual sales of $524 billion.
Walton passed away in 1992, but the Walton family still earns a lot: their combined fortune amounts to a whopping $215 billion. The Walton family is richer than Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates.
How the Walton family fared in 2020’s pandemic
According to Bloomberg, the Walton family is one of the billionaire families who got richer during the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past year, they added $25 billion to their fortune. To put that into perspective, the family’s fortune grew by an average of $3000 an hour over the course of 2020.
With over 11,000 stores around the world, Walmart also did well in 2020. Bloomberg reported the company had a surge in sales during the first quarter even though the retail industry as a whole did poorly for a while.
The Walton family owns about 50% of Walmart stock. Of Sam Walton & Helen Robson’s four children Rob, John, Jim, and Alice, three remain after John Walton passed away at the age of fifty-eight in a plane crash in 2005.
Sam Walton’s early life & career
Sam Walton was born in 1918 in Oklahoma. According to Britannica, before starting a career as a businessman, he got a degree in economics and did a J.C. Penney Company management training program. In 1945, he bought his first store, a Ben Franklin variety shop in Arkansas.
By the 1960s, Walton was operating a regional chain of Ben Franklin stores. Ben Franklin company executives saw a business opportunity in opening up the stores in small towns, and Walton thought it was a good idea. He decided to use that idea to create his own stores – that’s how Walmart started.
Most large chain stores were in big cities, but Walton took his chances and opened up the first Walmart in 1962: Wal-Mart Discount City in Rogers, Arkansas. It offered discount products.
According to Britannica, Walmart grew to a chain with 190 stores by 1977 and 800 stores in 1985. In 1988, Walton opened his first Supercenters, which brought those Walmart locations to full-scale grocery stores. In 1990, Walmart became the largest retailer in the U.S., beating out other chains like Sears. Eventually, the company went global and kept growing from there.
By the time Walton died in 1992, there were 1,735 Walmart stores, 212 Sam’s Clubs, and thirteen Supercenters. At that time, the company’s annual sales amounted to around $50 billion. When he passed away, the Walton family became some of the richest heirs in the U.S..
Personal lives of the Walton family
Rob, James, and Alice Walton are still heavily involved with Walmart the company and have taken on business ventures of their own. They own Walton Enterprises, the biggest shareholder of Walmart, and Rob Walton is on its board. Rob also served as Walmart’s chairman until 2015. James’s son Steuart Walton took over his father’s spot the board in 2016.
Alice Walton is the youngest of the three siblings, the only Walton family sibling who didn’t pursue an active role in the Walmart business.