Net Worth: $3.2 Billion
Notable Member(s): Don Vultaggio
Claim to Fame: Arizona Iced Tea
Anyone that’s ever been on a road trip, or even commuted to work for more than 30 minutes or so – has got to be familiar with the tall, delicious sweet (or green) tea that you can grab from a convenience store cooler for 99 cents. Arizona tea is the king of all gas station beverages, and Don Vultaggio is the king of Arizona tea.
Vultaggio grew up with a typical working-class family in Brooklyn. His dad worked as a manager in a supermarket near their house. Perhaps that’s how he first decided he wanted to go into the iced tea business. He started selling cans of pop (and beer,) out of the back of his van as a teenager. In 1992, he and a friend invested in some canning equipment after they’d created their first batch of Arizona. Considering the fact that the product was a hit and the cans were decorative enough to draw in new customers – they flew off of the shelves. Now, Vultaggio’s company sells over 3 billion cans of product each year.
Net Worth: $12 Billion
Notable Member(s): Thomas Frist Jr.
Claim to Fame: The Hospital Corporation of America
Thomas Frist is another legendary businessman that has topped quite a few lists – including the fact that he is the single richest person in the state of Tennessee. The Hospital Corporation of America is a for (major) profit organization that manages nearly 200 hospitals and 120 other medical centers throughout the country.
HCA was founded in Frist’s home state of Tennessee in 1968 and grew exponentially over the next couple of decades. They have experienced quite a bit of legal turmoil since they launched, including several lawsuits that were launched against them in the early ’90s for “questionable billing methods.” HCA holds the ranking of the 63rd largest corporation in the US. The medical industry certainly seems to run in the Frist family blood system, as a number of family members are involved with it, in one way or another. In 2009, Thomas handed the reigns of the company over to Billy, his son. Today, the family is worth nearly $12 billion and counting. In fact, one of every 22 ER visits in the country takes place in an HCA facility – and just think about how expensive those visits can be.
Net Worth: $8.2 Billion
Notable Member(s): Herbert Kohler Jr.
Claim to Fame: The Kohler Company
Herb Kohler’s grandfather launched the family business in 1873, manufacturing farm tools and hitching posts for horses. Over time, the company evolved and expanded into selling a variety of different things, including fixtures for plumbing. Chances are if you’ve peed in a public bathroom, you’ve encountered something that’s owned by the Kohler’s.
Aside from manufacturing parts like tubs, sinks, and faucets, the Kohler company also produces electrical generators and all kinds of furniture. In Sheboygan, they recently offered employees a $1 dollar raise after displacing them from their department, which some had worked in for over 40 years. The annual income for the Kohler’s? $6 billion. The family has made Forbes billionaires list several years in a row and has been called one of the “most generous” families by Town and Country Magazine. The Kohler’s also happen to own a couple of resorts and golf clubs in the town named for them – Kohler, Wisconsin. Herb apparently loves to golf, and once appeared in a guest role on Open Range. Herb’s son David took the company reigns in 2005 and has been operating as C.E.O ever since.
The Du Ponts
Net Worth: $14 Billion
Notable Member(s): Edward Breen
Claim to Fame: Monsanto
The Du Pont’s fortune has stemmed from a long, dark history filled with blood and terror. The family has funded numerous World Wars and was already the largest gunpowder supplier to the military in history when WW1 rolled around.
At one point, the government took the family to court, claiming they had a monopoly since they pretty much owned the entirety of the explosive industry. In turn, they created subsidiary companies and started to branch out into other types of businesses, like automotive and chemicals. They also started to infiltrate politics and remain deeply rooted in various areas of the government. The Du Pont corporation has been likened to Monsanto and is similar in many ways, including that they are king of the GMO corn and soy markets, owning more than 36% of each, they spend millions of dollars lobbying government, and they’ve manufactured Agent Orange and other devastating chemicals.
Net Worth: $5.3 Billion
Notable Member(s): Dee Simmons
Claim to Fame: Contran Corp.
Harold Simmons built the family empire upon…well…other families empires. At one point, he owned a drug store and a bank before ultimately starting up an investment firm. He made the money to open his business by “corporate raiding,” which made him pretty feared around his area, and the country in general.
Simmons would keep his eye out for businesses that were being shut down that he thought he could turn a profit on. He’d buy them when they were at their lowest price point and turn them into profitable ventures – then, he’d rinse and repeat. Of course, he’d typically gut the companies in the process, so no one but him was typically happy if they heard Simmons bought the place. He was known as being pretty philanthropic and donated large sums to different causes – like the $200 million he gave to the University of Texas’ Medical Center. Simmons was also known for donating to the G.O.P. In fact, two of his daughters sued him for using the money he’d signed off as being theirs towards G.O.P related causes. Those two daughters ended up being written out of his will before his passing.