Largest Family Businesses Service Basic Consumer Needs
The 100 largest U.S. family businesses ranked by revenues are a diverse group, but over one-fourth (27) are involved in the production, distribution or retailing of food. Manufacturers produce candy (Mars, Wrigley), spirited beverages (Anheuser Busch, Adolph Coors, E&J Gallo, Brown-Forman), and agricultural products (Perdue and Tyson--poultry; J.R. Simplot--potatoes; and Leprino--cheese). Cargill and Connell are grain traders. Retailers include those for whom groceries are just one line of business in their diversified stores (Wal-Mart and Meijer), regional grocery chains (Winn-Dixie, Publix, H.E. Butt, Raleys, Wegman's, Schnuck, Price Chopper and Bashas), and convenience chains (Wawa and Cumberland Farms).
Most of the 100 largest represent basic products and services. After food, the largest group is related to media including television, radio and cable, but still biased toward printing. The group includes News Corp, Cox Enterprises, ComCast, McGraw-Hill, Knight Ridder, New York Times, Advance Publications, Clear Channel Communications, Washington Post and Hearst. Specialty publishers R.R. Donnelley (yellow page directories) and Hallmark (greeting cards) might also be included in the media group. The Ingram family has two of the 100 largest family business, both of which distribute media products (books and videos).
As basic as food is shelter. Twelve companies are involved in construction, real estate or hotels. Bechtel, McCarthy and Walsh are construction family businesses. LeFrak, Simon Property Group, A.G. Spanos, and Tishman build, own and manage apartments, shopping centers and other developments. Radisson, Loews, Marriott and Hyatt are brands associated respectively with the Carlson, Tisch, Marriott and Pritzker families. Five more companies produce or distribute building materials: Kohler, Simpson, Sierra Pacific, Masco and 84 Lumber.
Clothing is provided by Milliken (textiles), Levi Strauss and retailers Gap, Dillards, Nordstrom, Belk and L.L. Bean.
Collectively, food, information/entertainment, shelter and clothing account for 65 of the 100 largest family businesses.
Another basic need is transportation. Six companies make, distribute, rent or retail automobiles or move goods on trucks or boats. And four companies offer insurance or financial management, while another five make consumer products like toys (Hasbro) and cosmetics (Estee Lauder). Only six of the 100 companies are high tech-focused: Motorola, General Dynamics, Jabil Circuit, Molex, Perot Systems and Comdisco.
We thank our colleagues at Family Business magazine for listing 100 of the largest family businesses.