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8 Businesses You’d Be Surprised Are Family-Owned

2014 February 8
by Contributor

grow-bigMost family-owned businesses have humble aspirations, but ever so often, those literal mom-and-pop businesses can take off.  There have plenty of family-owned businesses that have become giants in their respective industries.  All it takes is a vision and the determination of entrepreneurs like Henry Ford, Alex F Bouri, or Sam Walton to turn their dreams into a reality.


Probably the most well-known family business in all the world, the Wal-Mart empire was originally built by Sam Walton.  Once the patriarch passed, he left the company in the hands of his children in equal shares.  Now, the Waltons are each worth more than $20 billion.


You may have thought that the Mars candy company was named after the fourth planet from the sun.  In actuality, it is named after its founder, Frank C. Mars, who started the company back in 1911.  Nowadays, the company is still owned by the family, but daily operations were passed to the first non-family CEO when John and Forrest Mars Jr. retired.


A giant in the agriculture business, Cargill started off simply as a grain storage facility back in 1865.  Currently, Cargill is the largest privately-held company in the United States.  Founded by William Wallace Cargill, the business was taken over by William’s son-in-law John MacMillan in 1909 when William died.  To date, the Cargill and MacMillan families own 85% of the business.


One of the titans of industry, there probably isn’t an adult alive who doesn’t know the name Henry Ford.  Ford, himself, is responsible for modern manufacturing, having implemented moving assembly lines that were common practice in factories by 1914.  William Clay Ford, Jr., Henry Ford’s great-grandson is the acting executive chairman at the board of Ford Motor Company.

SC Johnson & Son

If you’ve ever used the word “Ziploc” to describe a freezer bag, then you are more than familiar with SC Johnson and their products.  A long-time household name in the United States, you need look no further than under your sink to find out how influential this brand has been in your very own life.  To this day, the company is still controlled by the Johnson family.


One of the nation’s oldest builders, Gilbane is a national construction and real estate development company that has been around since 1873.  Starting off as a carpentry business by brothers Thomas and William Gilbane, the company is run by fourth-generation family members and is worth an estimated $4 billion (2007).


Seament may not be a name familiar with the average consumer, but if your business is ever in need of shipping concrete, Seament is synonymous with that process.  Founded by Alex Bouri, the company is now in the capable hands of his son Charles.


The number one cable provider in the United States, the Philadelphia-based business had humble beginnings in Mississippi during the late 1960s.  Owned by the Roberts family, Comcast has roughly 21 million cable customers and almost 20 million high-speed Internet customers.

From humble beginnings to becoming major industry players, these family-run businesses have passed the torch from father to son and daughter and beyond.

Jeff is a business writer from Miami.  He is expecting his first child with his wife in June and spends his spare time on his motorcycle.

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