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Succession, exclusive to Showmax, is HBO’s brand-new critically acclaimed drama about the members of a filthy rich American family who are pitted against one another in a battle for control over their business empire. When billionaire Logan Roy’s health starts to fail, his children, his wife, his future son-in-law, his board and even his great-nephew find themselves in line to become kingpin of Waystar Royco, the media and entertainment corporation that Logan founded almost 60 years ago. But what they don’t know about the company is that it’s billions of dollars in debt, and is set to fail unless it adapts to the 21st Century. Could any of Logan’s successors turn the company around? And would he ever let them?

Succession is first and only on Showmax
Image: HBO

Unlike the fictional Waystar Royco, there are a few real-life family business empires that aren’t going anywhere soon, though a lot of them aren’t without their fair share of scandals. In order of most wealthy to slightly less loaded, here are 7 of the world’s richest families, all of whom could have inspired Succession.

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1. Walmart (Walton family – USA)

Alice and Jim Walton at the 2011 Walmart annual meeting. Photo: Walmart Stores’ Flickr.

The Walton family’s wealth comes from the legacy of Bud and Sam Walton, who founded the company in 1962. Walmart is now the biggest retailer in the world with over two million employees. The Walton family controls just over 50% of the company, and are the richest family in America.

Walmart has been rocked by corruption charges and the retail giant is preparing to pay around $300 million to settle bribery claims in markets like China, India, Brazil and Mexico according to Bloomberg. The company has already spent over $800 million in legal fees and investigations. The proposed resolution would require at least one Walmart subsidiary to plead guilty, but the holding company won’t be charged.

Walmart’s business ethics have been questioned for years since the New York Times reported that the company was involved in longstanding bribery campaigns to grow the business in Mexico.

Where there’s wealth, it seems that scandal is never far behind, and the Waltons are the wealthiest family in America that control the world’s biggest retailer, so don’t expect these corruption charges to be resolved anytime soon.

Revenue: $476.3 billion

2. Volkswagen (Porsche family – Germany)

Wolfgang Porsche. Image: Porsche

Wolfgang Porsche (pictured) is the great-grandson of the family patriarch, Ferdinand Porsche, who is best known for creating the Volkswagen Beetle, the Mercedes-Benz and many other classic cars. The heirs of Ferdinand  have majority voting rights in Volkswagen AG, the biggest car manufacturer in the world, with brands including Audi, Lamborghini and Porsche. It’s a controversial company that made use of forced labour under the Nazi regime in World War II, and was in the news more recently for how they tried to cover up an emissions scandal in 2015.

Revenue: $261.6 billion

3. Berkshire Hathaway (Buffett family – USA)

Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Image: HBO

Warren Buffett (pictured as a wizard) is known as the Oracle of Omaha and has transformed his investment firm Berkshire Hathaway into one of the world’s largest companies. The firm owns a number of businesses including Geico and Dairy Queen, and has significant holdings in companies like Apple and Coca Cola. Warren Buffett has voting control of Berkshire Hathaway and when he dies the majority of his shares will pass to a family foundation.

Revenue: $182.2 billion

4. EXOR (Agnelli family – Italy)

Image: Exor

The Agnelli family have a 53% controlling stake in the Italian Investment company, EXOR, with assets including Fiat, Ferrari, Alfa Romeo, the Economist Group and the football club Juventus.  EXOR has over 300 000 employees globally and the company was born in 1899 when Giovanni Agnelli co-founded Fiat.

Revenue: $151.1 billion

5. Ford (Ford family – USA)

Henry Ford. Image: TheHenryFord.org

The descendants of Henry Ford (pictured) have 40% of voting rights for the motor company that was founded in 1903. The family is still involved in running the business, and William Clay Ford Jr. now serves as the executive chairman of Ford Motor Company, which is the second-largest US car maker and the fifth largest in the world.

The Ford company has also been involved in major scandals. In 2000, more than a hundred people died in Ford Explorers because they had a tendency to rollover. In South Africa, Reshal Jimmy died in 2015 in her Ford Kuga after it mysteriously caught on fire, and over 40 Ford Kugas have gone up in flames since then. How did Ford South Africa handle the situation? It distanced itself from Jimmy’s family and denied any wrongdoing.

Revenue: $146.9 billion

6. Cargill (Cargill/MacMillan family – USA)

Image: Cargill

Cargill is an agribusiness company created in 1865 by William W Cargill, and his heirs now have complete control of the company . There are apparently more billionaires in the Cargill/Macmillan family than any other in the world. Cargill is involved in agricultural commodities trading, livestock raising, food production and financial services in over 70 countries including South Africa.
Revenue: $136.7 billion

7. Koch Industries (Koch family – USA)

Charles and David Koch. Image: YouTube

Fred C Koch was the founder of the oil refining company that became Koch Industries in 1940. His four sons inherited the business when he died in 1967. Charles and David Koch (pictured) took control of the company through the courts and sued their brothers William and Frederick. Charles and David own around 84% of the company, which deals in various industries from manufacturing to commodities trading and petroleum refining.

There have been major allegations against the Koch brothers and how they made their fortune as well as the impact their companies have on the environment. Koch-related businesses raise millions for the Republican party and reports claim they use this political influence to protect their profits. In 2012, the Koch empire raised over $400 million for the Republican party and continue to do so.

Revenue: $115 billion

The revenue information for these companies came from Forbes.com.

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