From Old Money to New Power: The Biggest Family Dynasties in America

Whether they made it through money, talent, or just really good publicity, there are certain families that dominate America. From media to politics to sports, the following families have earned their power and influence not just in the United States but the world. And when it comes to these families, their power and wealth has only grown exponentially from generation to generation.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye cozying up together on the couch / John D Rockefeller posing in a chair / Anderson Cooper on the red carpet / Eli and Peyton Manning shaking hands
Photo by Rich Fury, Forum Photos, Getty Images / General Photographic Agency, Getty Images / Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images / Jim McIsaac, Getty Images

Similar to royal monarchies, in these families, large sums of money get passed from one family member to the next, creating a perpetual cycle of power – in other words, a dynasty. From the Fords to the Kardashians, it’s these particular families that have etched themselves into the American lexicon to become household names.

These are the most impressive American dynasties.

The Barrymores: Film and Stage Legends

They’ve been dubbed “Hollywood’s first family.” Their influence has spanned the entertainment industry from the screen to the stage since before the American Revolutionary War. It all started with Maurice Barrymore (this was his stage name; his given name was Herbert Blythe), who fathered actors Lionel, Ethel, and John Barrymore.

John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore posing behind a table
John, Ethel, and Lionel Barrymore Photo by Library of Congress / Corbis / VCG / Getty Images

John came to be known as “The Great Profile,” thanks to his aristocratic good looks. He was also the most acclaimed actor of the early 1900s. John’s second wife, Dolores Costello, was a popular silent film actress. Together, they had a child named John Drew Barrymore, who – once his parents divorced – rebelled against his mother, who only wished for him to remain out of the limelight.

The Barrymores: Hollywood’s First Family

John Drew signed his first acting contract at the age of 17. Het later married a woman named Ildiko Jaid Mako Barrymore, an actress who became her husband’s manager. The couple gave birth to Drew – the Barrymore we know best – whose fame was used by her own mother to enjoy a whirlwind social life (in which she introduced Drew to Studio 54 – and its vices – when the girl was only nine years old).

Drew Barrymore posing with Minnie Mouse in front of Disney Parks castle
Photo by Abigail Nilsson / Walt Disney Resorts / Getty Images

Meanwhile, John Drew followed in the Barrymore family business, making it big in film and television. As for Drew, she’s been acting since the age of three. As the goddaughter of director Steven Spielberg, she was given her breakout role in E.T. Drew’s net worth is estimated at $125 million.

The Fords: Automobile Tycoons

Henry Ford founded the Ford Motor Company in 1903, creating a family dynasty that has led the Fords to be dubbed the first family in American automobiles. Henry’s only son, Edsel, took over the family company in 1919 when he was only 26 years old. Edsel is the one credited with the sleek designs that made the Ford brand so popular.

Henry Ford II, Henry Ford, and Edsel Bryant Ford posing together in trench coats
Henry Ford II, Henry Ford, and Edsel Bryant Ford circa 1953. Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Edsel’s son, Henry II, took over the reins of the Ford Motor Company in 1943 when he was 25. He managed to revive the company after the devastation of World War II. Meanwhile, his brothers held high and powerful positions under him. Henry Ford’s descendants have managed to do what other family dynasties have largely failed to do – maintain control.

The Fords: The First Family in American Automobiles

Today, the Fords are still involved in the company: Henry II’s son, Edsel II, sits on the company’s Board of Directors. His granddaughter, Elena, is the vice president, and William Jr. (Edsel’s grandson) is Executive Chairman at the company. The Ford family holds $1.2 billion worth of common stock.

Elena Ford posing against a railing / William Clay Ford Jr posing next to a Ferarri
Source: Twitter / Photo by Kevin Winter, Getty Images

The torch is now being carried by Henry Ford III, the great-great grandson of the family patriarch, who at age 39 was thrust into the role. He and 32-year-old Alexandra Ford English, Henry III’s cousin, are in the fifth generation of the Ford dynasty. Even though critics blame the Fords for the company’s struggles, the family sees Henry III and Alexandra as their best hope of keeping control in the years to come.

The Mannings: The First Family of Football

Football star Peyton Manning happens to be a descendant of a proud line of American footballers. It began with Archie Manning, who started the family’s football legacy at the University of Mississippi during the late 1960s. He then played quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, and Minnesota Vikings before finally retiring in 1985.

Archie Manning posing with his Coach on the field in University / Archie Manning on the field with a New Orleans Saints uniform on
Photo by University of Mississippi, Getty Images / Focus on Sport, Getty Images

The Manning patriarch said he never pushed his sons to get into the world of professional sports – they just simply loved the game. Peyton and Eli both became number one NFL draft picks, and each won Super Bowl Champions and MVP honors during back-to-back seasons.

The Mannings: Generations of Champions

Peyton began his professional career as a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts before switching to the Denver Broncos in 2012. He took the team to Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. A year later, Peyton found himself a spot in the top 20 highest-paid athletes with $30 million in earnings.

Eli, Archive, and Peyton Manning huddling in front of a plasma tv surrounded by family photographs and trophies
Photo by Ezra Shaw / Reebok / Getty Images

His younger brother, Eli, was earning $26.6 million in 2012 from the Giants as well as from endorsements from Samsung, DirecTV, Reebok, and Toyota. The eldest Manning brother – and the least talked about – is Cooper, who never played professional football because of a spinal disorder. He has, however, had a successful career in investment banking.

The Waltons: Sultans of the One-Stop-Shop

As of 2020, the Waltons are the richest family in the country, with a net worth or $247 billion. And they built their fortune on an unshakable basis: “The Lowest Prices Anytime, Anywhere.” Sam Walton and his brother Bud opened their first store in 1945 in Newport, Arkansas.

Sam Walton sitting behind his desk
Sam Walton in his office. Photo by Gilles Mingasson / Getty Images

That very store eventually became Walmart, but it didn’t really take form until 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. The Waltons were able to bring the one-stop shop to prominence. After the success of that business model, the brothers went on to establish Sam’s Club in 1983. Then, they created discount shopping in bulk.

The Waltons: Walmart and Sam’s Club

Jim Walton is Sam’s youngest son, who has an estimated net worth of $36.8 billion, firmly placing him in the top 10 of Forbes’ list of the world’s billionaires. Jim is also the CEO of Arvest Bank, valued at $1.8 billion. Jim’s older sister Alice almost made it to the same list, with a net worth of about $36.4 billion.

Alice, Jim, and Rob Walton on stage with WalMart stickers on their jackets
Alice, Jim, and Rob Walton. Photo by Beth Hall / Bloomberg / Getty Images

She is the chairwoman of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Bud’s daughter, Ann Walton Kroenke, married Stan Kroenke, who owns Kroenke Sports Enterprises (including the teams in the NBA, NHL, NFL, and Major League Soccer). Together, four of the Waltons are some of the richest Americans; Christy, Jim, Alice, and S. Robson Walton are worth $136 billion.

The Kochs: Business Tycoons

Headed by CEO Charles Koch (pronounced “Coke”) and his Executive Vice President brother, David Koch, Koch Industries is the second-largest private company in the country. But the Kochs are some of the most powerful, affluent people in the world.

Fred Koch standing in front of a circular metal gate
Fred Koch. Source: Twitter

And a lot of it is due to the boost they got from their entrepreneurial ancestors. The family business started with Fred Koch, who launched the Texas Company in Port Arthur, Texas. He worked his way up until he co-founded the Rock Island Oil & Refining Company in the 1900s. The company was rechristened Koch Industries in his memory.

The Kochs: Brothers in Oil

Brothers Charles and David are now the faces of Koch Industries, but they have two other brothers – Bill (David’s twin) and Frederick (the eldest). These two are not involved in the company. As you can imagine, there were long, ugly legal battles in which Bill and Frederick sued their brothers for billions. The case eventually settled.

David Koch on the red carpet in a maroon tux / Charles Koch posing in front of an oval doorway
David and Charles Koch. Photo by Charles Eshelman, FilmMagic, Getty Images / Patrick T Fallon for the Washington Post, Getty Images

These days, most of what is said about Charles and David is negative. Some say the Koch brothers’ influences are “undermining our democracy.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called them “un-American.” Nevertheless, the billionaires have a gigantic political network that is larger and more far-reaching than any of us would like to accept. Their net worth? $100 billion.

The Mellons: Finance Moguls

The Mellons, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, came from an Irish immigrant family. They’re known for the Bank of New York Mellon, Chevron, Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA), New York Shipbuilding, and several other companies and interests.

A black and white painting of Tomas Mellon
Thomas Mellon. Source: Wikipedia

The family fortune started with Judge Thomas Mellon, who founded T. Mellon & Sons in 1869 (which became the Bank of New York Mellon). His sons, Andrew and Richard, eventually took over the company and grew the family fortune. Andrew established Union Steel, which merged with U.S. Steel to create the world’s largest steel company. Meanwhile, Richard invested in aluminum and coal.

The Mellons: Brothers of Banking

With their combined fortune at its peak, Andrew was named Treasury Secretary in 1921, whereas Richard became president of the bank. Both brothers were generous philanthropists, having founded the Mellon Institute for Industrial Research, which merged into Carnegie Mellon University. The younger generations of the Mellon family continue to manage the accumulated fortune and donate to charities.

Andrew and his daughter Ailsa standing outdoors at an event in the early 1900s
Andrew and Ailsa Mellon. Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

Andrew’s daughter Ailsa became a socialite and arts patron like her father. And Richard’s granddaughter Cordelia Scaife also became a philanthropist. As for his grandson, Richard Mellon Scaife, he owns the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and several Pennsylvania radio stations. Matthew Taylor Mellon II has his own fashion label, HANLEY MELLON.

The Vanderbilts: Industrial Tycoons

The Vanderbilts are one of the oldest families in America, and they epitomize “old money.” The family, of Dutch descent, rose to prominence during the Gilded Age at the end of the 19th century. Cornelius Vanderbilt was born in 1794 and grew up in poverty.

Cornelius Vanderbilt with his wife / Cornelius Vanderbilt standing next to a radio microphone
Cornelius Vanderbilt and his wife. Photo by Fox Photos, Getty Images / Hulton Archive, Getty Images

He managed to marry above him, though. He worked since he was very young at his father’s river shipping business, slowly building it into an empire. He and his children further expanded the family business into other industries, including railroads.

The Vanderbilts: From Railroads to Real Estate

Cornelius’ son Billy struck gold when he inherited 95% of his father’s fortune. He continued to invest in the railways and is credited with building New York’s Grand Central Terminal. He also expanded into the Midwest. After Billy, though, most of the Vanderbilts only seemed to excel in inheriting and spending a lot of the fortune on real estate.

Billy Vanderbilt posing for a portrait / Anderson Cooper standing in the street in New York on New Years
Billy Vanderbilt, who inherited most of his father’s fortune (left) and Anderson Cooper (right). Photo by Oscar White, Corbis, VCG, Getty Images / Joe Corrigan, Getty Images

Gloria Vanderbilt was an early developer of designer blue jeans. Her son, Anderson Cooper, is famous and very recognizable and works as a prominent anchor for CNN. Record producer John Hammond and actor Timothy Olyphant are also related, albeit more removed; they are descendants of Cornelius on their mothers’ sides.

Gloria Vanderbilt’s net worth is estimated at $200 million, and Anderson Cooper reportedly makes $11 million a year.

The Coppolas: Entertainment Kingpins

There are many who believe that the classic film The Godfather, directed and written by Francis Ford Coppola, is partly based on his own family history. After all, artists tend to depict their personal lives in their work.

Francis Ford Coppola looking through a video camera on the set of one of his films
Francis Ford Coppola on the set of Finian’s Rainbow 1968. Photo by Sunset Boulevard / Corbis / Getty Images

Coppola’s parents were actually musicians, but he went into Hollywood and the world of film instead. He directed blockbusters like the Godfather movies, The Great Gatsby, and Apocalypse Now, which earned him three Oscars and two Golden Globes. The Coppola patriarch created a Hollywood dynasty – one that is hard for family members to resist.

The Coppolas: Nepotism at Its Finest

Coppola’s siblings, Talia Coppola Shire and August Floyd Coppola are also in the film industry. They gave birth to the next generation of film mainstays: Talia is Jason Schwartzman’s mother, whereas August is Nicholas Cage’s father.

August Coppola and Nicolas Cage on the red carpet posing during the day / Talia Shire and Jason Schwartzman on the red carpet together in 2007
August Coppola with Nicolas Cage (left) and Talia Coppola Shire with Jason Schwartzman (right). Photo by Jim Smeal, Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images / Jeff Vespa, WireImage, Getty Images

Coppola’s personal family went into the industry, too. His wife is a documentarian, his son Roman is a producer and screenwriter, and his daughter Sofia is a screenwriter, director, producer, and actor. Her acting debut was as the baby in the first Godfather. Together, the Coppola family has more than two dozen major award nominations and wins.

The Kardashians: Entertainment Entrepreneurs

This all-too-popular family unit became famous because of Olympian stepfather Bruce/Kaitlyn Jenner and Kim Kardashian’s notorious sex tape. The Kardashians built their fame via their reality show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

The Kardashian-Jenner family posing together in all denim clothing
Photo by Maureen Donaldson / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Bruce was famous first when he won gold at the 1976 Olympic Games. He then married Kris Houghton Jenner, who already had several kids with her ex-husband Robert Kardashian, the attorney who represented OJ Simpson during his murder trial. Today, Kris is the president of her production company called Jenner Communications.

The Kardashians: Keeping It Up

The Kardashian children are clearly the ones most often seen in the spotlight – by their own choice. Their roles on the show, the dramatic relationships, the public appearances, and the scandals all captivate fans. In 2012, the family signed a $30 million contract to star in three more seasons.

The Kardashian family posing with Lamar Odom and Kanye West backstage at a fashion show
Photo by Jamie McCarthy / Yeezy Season 3 / Getty Images

Kim is reportedly the highest-paid woman in reality TV, earning $18 million per year from the show, in addition from her countless endorsements and other ads. Kim has her own line, Skims. She is about to divorce Kanye West and has a net worth of $900 million.

The Ellisons: Technology and Film Legends

From a humble beginning to a privileged present, Larry Ellison made a name for himself as one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in tech. He was born to an unmarried Jewish mother whose family took the name “Ellison” after the famous Ellis Island.

Larry Ellison sitting in a chair talking in 1989
Larry Ellison 1989. Photo by Steve Ringman / San Francisco Chronicle / Getty Images

Larry’s mother passed him onto relatives when he was young, and he has apparently only ever met her once. Against all odds, he made it big. Very big. The college drop-out who is now in his 70s built his empire from the ground up. It’s now worth an estimated $49.3 billion.

The Ellisons: Self-Made Billionaires

Larry is also a real-estate mogul whose portfolio is basically the size of a phone book (remember those?). Included in his successes is the entire Hawaiian island of Lanai. His latest initiative has been to wipe out polio, with a pledge of $100 million to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

Larry, Megan, and David Ellison posing on the red carpet during the day at a movie premiere
Larry, Megan, and David Ellison. Photo by Lester Cohen / WireImage / Getty Images

Larry’s third marriage brought his two children, Megan and David. But instead of following in dad’s footsteps, they both stormed head first into the film industry. Each one owns a successful film production company: Megan’s Annapurna Pictures (American Hustle and Her) and David’s Skydance Productions (True Grit, Jack Reacher, and the new Star Trek movies).

The Hearsts: Media Magnates

The Hearst family was wealthy long before they ever struck media gold in the publishing industry. It was William Randolph Hearst’s publications that popularized what came to be known as “yellow journalism.” He had all the best stories, which were sometimes gossip, sometimes completely fake, yet always entertaining.

William Randolph Hearst with his wife and two sons standing on the deck of a boat
William Randolph Hearst with his wife and two of his sons. Photo by Keystone-France / Gamma-Keystone / Getty Images

He started his empire with one small and minor newspaper in San Francisco. He then expanded to New York and eventually to other big cities across the country. To this day, Hearst Corporation is the parent company of some of the biggest magazines and newspapers in the world.

The Hearsts: Moguls and Socialites

In 1903, William Randolph Hearst married Millicent Willson; together, they had five sons. George, William Randolph Jr., John, and twin brothers Randolph and David all continued in the media industry. William Randolph, Jr. went on to become a reporter for a Hearst newspaper and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize.

Gillian, Lydia, and Amanda Hearst on the red carpet in 2005
Gillian, Lydia, and Amanda Hearst. Photo by Jamie McCarthy / WireImage / Getty Images

He took over the company when his father passed away. His son, William III, is the Chairman of the Board at Hearst. Brothers George, John, and Randolph are all ranked high in the company. Today, the Hearsts are still involved in publications, but the younger generations are mostly known as socialites. Granddaughters Amanda, Gillian, and Lydia are all models and active trendsetters.

The Rockefellers: Banking Billionaires

The Rockefellers are an American family with a firm grip in industry and banking. In recent years, the family has had several candidates in the political arena as well. While other “old money” families have lost their power or wealth, the Rockefellers have managed to hold on to their empire.

John D Rockefeller sitting behind a desk writing a letter
John D Rockefeller circa 1930. Photo by General Photographic Agency / Getty Images

The Rockefellers were originally from Germany. They landed in America around 1720. John D. Rockefeller’s prosperity began when he founded his own produce business that supplied Union troops during the Civil War with food. After the war, he began investing in oil.

The Rockefellers: Oil, Real Estate and Politics

In 1870, John D. co-founded Standard Oil with $1 million in capital, marking it as the largest company in the country at the time. He also invested in real estate projects in New York City, his home city. His son John Jr. invested in real estate too and eventually became a majority stakeholder of Chase Bank.

John D Rockefeller Jr and his five sons standing around in top hats
John D Rockefeller Jr and his five sons. Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

John Jr.’s son, Nelson, entered politics instead, serving as the Governor of New York for four terms until 1973. His brother, John III, donated $175 million in order to build Lincoln Center. His brother David, the last living child of John D., was Chairman and Chief Executive of Chase Bank. John III’s son, John IV (“Jay”), serves as the U.S. Senator for West Virginia since 1984.

The Laurens: Retail Rulers

Those in the Lauren family today are involved in retail, philanthropy, and film, and each member carries the impressive significance of the family name. Ralph Lauren, born Ralph Lifschitz, came from a Jewish immigrant family from the Bronx, New York.

Ralph Lauren standing on the runway with models and guests standing behind him
Ralph Lauren. Photo by Evan Agostini / Liaison / Getty Images

His interest in dressing well and looking his best came at a young age. He went on to pay for his education by working evening jobs. At one of these jobs, Ralph began designing wide ties, which was in stark contrast to the skinny ones that were “in” at the time. And, thus, the Polo label was born.

The Laurens: Icons in Styling

Ralph soon changed his name to Lauren, and his brand came to develop into one that produces everything from iconic American clothing to bed sheets. Ralph married Ricky Anne Loew-Beer, and together they had two sons, Andrew and David, and a daughter, Dylan.

Ralph Lauren with wife, sons, and daughter standing around a desk
Ralph Lauren with his wife, sons, and daughter. Photo by Hal Horowitz / WireImage / Getty Images

David is Ralph and Ricky’s only child who entered the family business. Now an Executive Vice President of Advertising, Marketing, and Corporate Communications at Ralph Lauren, David married George W. Bush’s niece, Lauren Bush. Andrew went into acting and producing, and Dylan founded Dylan’s Candy Bar. Ralph is worth an estimated $6.9 billion alone.


The Marses: The Chocolate Family

Talk about fortune! This particularly rich family is worth $120 billion. And it all started with a little candy bar. Frank Mars was just a schoolboy when he learned how to hand-dip chocolates. The business he came to establish is best known for M&Ms, Milky Way, and Mars bars.

A portrait of Frank Mars
Frank Mars. Source: Wikipedia

Even though they’re most famous for the candy bars they create, it’s Mars’ pet-care products that happen to make up about half of the company’s $38 billion in revenue. The closely-held business is owned solely by members of the Mars family.

The Marses: From Candy Bars to Pet Care

Jacqueline and John Mars, heirs to the fortune, inherited a stake in the candy empire Mars Inc. when their father passed away in 1999. Jacqueline’s son, Stephen Badger, is currently the chairman of Mars Inc. The Mars siblings run the Mars Foundation, which donates to environmental, cultural, educational, and health-related causes.

John Mars sitting at a desk / Jacqueline Mars on the red carpet
John and Jacqueline Mars. Source: Wikipedia / Photo by Ron Sachs – Pool, Getty Images

A brief timeline: Frank Mars was born in 1883. He contracted polio as a young boy and was unable to walk to school. In 1932, Forrest E. Mars Sr. moved to the U.K. In 1963, Mars opened a chocolate factory in the Netherlands. In 1999, Forrest E. Mars Jr. retired from management. And in 2017, Mars acquired pet health-care company VCA.

The Pritzkers: Legal Marvels

Nicholas Pritzker established a legal legacy for his family. The Ukrainian arrived penniless from Kiev, taught himself English, spent his days working and his nights studying law. He started a law practice, but his sons – Harry, Abram, and Jack – went into business instead.

A.N. Pritzker posing for a portrait at his 90th birthday in 1984
A.N. Pritzker at his 90th birthday in 1984. Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

They chose to invest in real estate and small companies, creating their own family fortune. Abram helped establish the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago. The Pritzkers are now most famous for steering the Hyatt hotel empire, which can be credited to Abram’s sons Jay, Robert, and Donald.

The Pritzkers: The Hyatt Hotel Empire

In 1957, the brothers bought the Hyatt House hotel in L.A. and turned their investment into a large chain of Hyatt hotels across the world. They founded the Marmon Group, which they sold to Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway for $4.8 billion.

Abram Nicholas Pritzker posing in front of an office desk / Thomas Pritzker in front of a state seal
Abram Nicholas Pritzker (left) and Thomas J Pritzker (right). Photo by Michael L Abramson, Getty Images / Visual China Group, Getty Images

Abram’s grandchildren went into various industries: Daniel is a jazz musician, John is an investor, and Jean (“Gigi”) is a filmmaker. Thomas started The Pritzker Organization and is the current Executive Chairman of Hyatt Hotels. Jay (“J.B.”) and his brother Tony run private equity and venture capital firm The Pritzker Group. The family net worth is said to be $20 billion.

The Murdochs: Media Moguls

The Murdoch family are Australian-American media moguls who govern a massive media corporation. Originally from Scotland, the dynasty first started to gain power in the early 20th century in Melbourne, Australia. It was there that Keith Murdoch founded the country’s first national media chain, News Limited.

Keith Murdoch standing on the runway in front of a plane
Keith Murdoch. Photo by Fairfax Media / Getty Images

Keith had four children, and his son Keith Rupert (known as Rupert) took over the family business after his father died. He then acquired the struggling papers and turned them around. The Economist credits Rupert with inventing the modern tabloid. In 1969, he acquired the U.K.’s News of The World, earning millions.

The Murdochs: The Father of the Modern Tabloid

Rupert moved to New York in 1974 and is a U.S. citizen. The family faced controversy during the 2011 News Corp phone hacking scandal. Prominent editors in Murdoch’s company were caught using phone tapping and other illegal methods to gain information.

Rupert Murdoch with his second with and 14 month old daughter playing with the phones / Rupert Murdoch with his sons in tuxedos
Rupert Murdoch with his second wife and daughter (left) and Rupert with his two sons (right). Photo by Chris Ware, Keystone, Hulton Archive, Getty Images / John Phillips, Getty Images

Many of Rupert’s children and other Murdoch family relatives are or were in the media industry at one time or another. Rupert and his family are placed 33rd in the list of richest people in the world today. His sons Lachlan and James are now the non-executive Co-chairman and Deputy COO of News Corp.

The Marsalises: Music Magnates

Jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis, Jr. became the forefront of a musical dynasty in New Orleans, where he was born and raised. The family has had a major impact on jazz in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Ellis Sr. was a businessman, jazz pianist, and teacher who urged his son to follow the same path.

Ellis Marsalis JR posing for a portrait in 2008
Ellis Marsalis Jr. Photo by Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg / Getty Images

Ellis Jr. studied music in college and played for the Corps Four jazz quartet while enlisted in the Marines. He performed professionally around the world. The Marsalis patriarch was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.

The Marsalises: The First Family of Jazz

Ellis Marsalis Sr. recently died at the age of 85 (due to pneumonia as a result of Covid). Four of his six sons are musicians: Wynton is a Pulitzer- and Grammy-winning trumpeter and America’s most prominent jazz spokesman.

Ellis Marsalis Jr and his son playing the trumpet /
Ellis Marsalis Jr and Wynton Marsalis backstage after a performance in 1990. Photo by Jack Vartoogian / Getty Images

Branford is a saxophonist who has won three Grammies. Delfeayo is a trombonist and a prominent recording producer and performer, and Jason – the youngest of the clan – is a percussionist who made a name for himself with his own band. Never before in jazz has a family produced as many masters of the form.

The Sulzberger-Ochs: Newspaper Aces

Thanks to the Sulzberger family business, we have The New York Times. Arthur Hays Sulzberger, also known as the “grandfather” of the Times, went to Columbia University and joined the respected paper in 1918, one year after he married Iphigene Ochs, the daughter of publisher Adolph Ochs.

Arthur Hays Sulzberger and his wife photographed as they arrived in Stockholm
Arthur Hays Sulzberger and his wife. Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

Under Arthur Hays’ wing, the paper grew both in size and reputation during the mid-1900s. He became the publisher and president when his father-in-law passed and doubled the paper’s circulation as well as the size of the staff. Two years after he retired, his son Arthur Ochs “Punch” Sulzberger took the reins as a publisher.

The Sulzberger-Ochs: Punching Papers

Continuing the family tradition, Punch’s son, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., picked up the title as the publisher of The New York Times when his dad retired in 1992. Punch Jr. is credited with having developed digital operations at the Times.

Arthur Ochs Sulzberger on the red carpet in 2015
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger. Photo by Larry Busacca / New York Times / Getty Images

Forbes listed his 2013 earnings at $5.3 million thanks to his salary and stock options. Back in 2009, his son, Arthur Gregg, jumped on the family business wagon as a star reporter. In March 2012, he became an editor on the Times’ metro desk.


The Lauders: Cosmetic Icons

Estée Lauder made billions as a client-focused cosmetics empire that was built from the ground up. It hooked millions of loyal followers from around the world. Today the company and the Lauder family members are worth billions.

Estee Lauder posing on a desk leaning gracefully on her hand
Estee Lauder 1966. Photo by Evening Standard / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Estée Lauder was the daughter of immigrant parents in Queens, New York. She started making her own makeup and selling it at local beauty salons. With help from her father, Estée was able to open Estée Lauder Cosmetics in Manhattan during the 1940s. Her husband, Joe, joined her to run the business. Their sons, Leonard and Ronald, got involved, too.

The Lauders: From Makeup to Philanthropy

Leonard joined in 1958 and Ronald in the mid-‘60s. These days, the company is run by the Lauder children and grandchildren. Leonard is the Chairman Emeritus of Estée Lauder Companies. His son William is the current Executive Chairman.

William and Leonard Lauder posing sitting wearing suits at an event in 2010
William and Leonard Lauder 2010. Photo by Jamie McCarthy / WireImage / WWD / Getty Images

Ronald is the Chairman of Clinique, and his daughters, Jane and Aerin, hold powerful positions in the company. Leonard is worth a reported $8.1 billion, while his brother Ronald has a net worth of $3.8 billion. The family is also philanthropic, giving to Jewish heritage charities around the world. Ronald founded the Neue Gallery in NYC, and Leonard is a trustee of the Whitney Museum also in NYC.

The Tisches: Hotel Empire

The Tisch family and the Loews Corporation are closely associated and involved in arts philanthropy. However, Laurence Allen “Larry” Tisch and his younger brother Preston Robert “Bob” founded their empire in the hotel business.

Preston and Laurence Tisch posing around a model hotel / Preston and Laurence posing in tuxedos in front of a theater entrance
Preston and Laurence Tisch. Photo by Bettmann, Getty Images / Ron Galella, Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images

Their first move was when Larry convinced his parents to help him invest in a resort hotel in New Jersey. Bob soon teamed up with Larry, and the Tisch brothers acquired Loews from MGM Studios. Loews eventually diversified to insurance, oil drilling, pipeline transport, as well as high-end hotels. Larry is also a major investor in CBSwith a seat on the network’s board.

The Tisches: From the Arts to the NYPD

Bob went on to buy a stake in the New York Giants. The family is incredibly philanthropic, giving to the Central Park Zoo, NYU (the arts school is named the Tisch School of the Arts), and Take the Field. The brothers’ sisters-in-law, Joan and Wilma Tisch are now in control of the family fortune.

Laurence and Wilma Tisch arriving at an engagement party / Joan Tisch on the red carpet
Laurence Tisch with Wilma Tisch (left) and Joan Tisch (right). Photo by Mark Peterson, Corbis, Getty Images / Mark Von Holden, WireImage, Getty Images

Wilma has a net worth of $1.5 billion, whereas Joan has $2.9 billion. Their sons took the reins: Jim is now the CEO of Loews, and Jonathan is the Chairman of Loews Hotels. The younger generation is also proving their worth in the family business. Jim’s kids Jessica and Sam are involved in the NYPD’s counterterrorism bureau and Citigroup, respectively.

The Kennedys: Political Power

The Kennedys descended from an Irish immigrant family and are arguably the perfect example of the American Dream. The first Kennedys went from Ireland to Boston in 1848, and after only one generation, the first Kennedy entered politics.

Joseph Patrick Kennedy posing with his sons at a train station / Patrick J Kennedy posing in a portrait with a large mustache
Joseph Patrick Kennedy with John F and Joseph P Kennedy (left) and Patrick J Kennedy (right). Photo by Fox Photos, Getty Images / Corbis, Getty Images

Patrick Joseph, “P.J.,” served as State Representative before becoming Governor of Massachusetts. His son, Joseph Patrick, became the U.S. ambassador to the U.K. and had nine children: Joseph Patrick Jr., John Fitzgerald, Rosemary, Kathleen, Eunice, Patricia, Robert Francis, Jean, and Edward, aka “Ted.” The three youngest (John F., Robert F., and Ted) all became prominent figures in the government.

The Kennedys: A Family Curse

JFK took office in 1961, serving until 1963 when he was assassinated. RFK served as Attorney General from 1961 to 1964, before announcing in 1968 that he would also try for the White House. He was, however, shot and killed after winning the California primary election.

A color photograph of the Kennedy Family posing in Joseph Patrick's living room with their extended family
Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

From 1962 to 2009, Ted was a Senator of Massachusetts, but he died after a battle with brain cancer. Many Kennedys still remain on Capitol Hill. JFK and Jackie’s daughter, Caroline, is the U.S. Ambassador to Japan. Her sister, Eunice, married the former mayor of Santa Monica. And Maria married actor and former California governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Emanuels: Political and Hollywood Powerhouses

The Emanuels might just be the ultimate American power siblings. Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel, a former chief of staff for Barack Obama, earned the nickname “Rahmbo” earlier on when he was a particularly aggressive senior adviser in the Clinton White House.

Rahm Emanuel on stage / Ezekiel Emanuel posing
Rahm Emanuel and Ezekiel Emanuel. Photo by Matthew Stockman, The Laver Cup, Getty Images / Brendan Hoffman, Bloomberg, Getty Images

Ezekiel Emanuel is a well-known healthcare policy expert and one of the intellectual heads of Obamacare. A third brother, Ari, is a Hollywood super-agent for the likes of Martin Scorsese and Oprah Winfrey. He’s actually the inspiration behind the maniacal agent Ari Gold on HBO’s drama Entourage.

The Emanuels: Power Siblings

When it comes to the Emanuels, it appears to be that toughness simply runs in the family. Take their father, for example. Benjamin Emanuel once fought for Israeli independence as a member of the Irgun, which was a paramilitary group that operated in British Mandate Palestine.

Rahm Emanuel and his family celebrating announcing candidacy for mayor
Rahm Emanuel and his family. Photo by Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Corbis / Getty Images

It’s been said that the Emanuel brothers’ own children will surpass even these honors. There are four sons and five daughters, including Ezekiel’s daughters. Rebekah is an accomplished social activist and sculptor from Yale; Gabrielle is a Rhodes Scholar and former varsity equestrian from Dartmouth.

The Maras: From NFL Royalty to Hollywood Royalty

When it comes to celebrity sisters, the Maras are all the rage at the moment. Both Rooney and Kate have multiple films and TV credits to their names. And, as it turns out, the Mara name and the family fortune have been around for some time.

Rooney and Kate Mara on the red carpet in 2010
Rooney and Kate Mara. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

In fact, the Mara family is NFL royalty. Rooney, whose full name is Patricia Rooney Mara, and Kate are part of the Rooney family – the NFL dynasty. The sisters are worth $26 million on their own. Their family, however, is worth closer to $3 billion.

The Maras: Starting Out as a Bookie

The Mara family fortune began with Tim Mara, who was born in 1887 into a poor Irish family living in New York City’s Lower East Side. He dropped out of school at the age of 13 to work full time. He eventually found a way to make money as a bookie and became quite successful at it.

Tim Mara sitting in a desk chair leaning to his side
Tim Mara. Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

In 1925, President of the NFL Joseph Carr was unable to find someone to lead a New York NFL team. At the time, college football was hugely popular, whereas audiences seemed uninterested in professional football.

The Maras: Buying the New York Giants

A mutual friend introduced Tim to Carr. He then purchased New York’s NFL franchise for a mere $500 (in today’s dollars, that would be approximately $12,500). Attendance at the first games was awful, and Tim lost $40,000 in the first few years.

Tim Mara posing on the telephone in the NY Giants stadium chairs
Tim Mara in the New York Giants stadium circa 1987. Photo by Focus on Sport / Getty Images

But Tim had a brilliant idea to play his team against the former college favorite Red Grange, which had just signed with the Chicago Bears professional football team. The game was a success and earned him $143,000. The rest is history. Tim’s New York Giants became NFL powerhouses.

The Maras: Giants in NFL

The Giants are still owned by the Mara family. They were passed from Tim to his sons, Wellington and John “Jack” Mara, who was the team President for 24 years. Timothy Mara, Jack’s son, was a co-owner until his death in 1995.

Wellington Mara standing in the Giants stadium / John Mara with a baseball hat on standing on the field
Wellington Mara (left) and John Mara (right). Photo by Ross Lewis, Getty Images / Mike Lawrie, Getty Images

John Mara, who is Wellington’s son, is the President, CEO, and co-owner (with Steve Tisch) of the Giants. Kate and Rooney’s father, Timothy Christopher Mara, is the Vice President of Player Evaluation for the Giants. Kathleen McNulty Rooney, who comes from her own side of NFL royalty, is Kate and Rooney Mara’s mother.

The Barzuns: From Culture to Philanthropy to Booze

The Barzun unit conquered several areas of American power, culture, and philanthropy, as well as booze. Matthew Winthrop Barzun made a fortune as a CNET Networks executive. He was also U.S. ambassador to Sweden and served as Obama’s 2012 national finance chair. He’s now the presumptive ambassador to the U.K.

Jacques Barzun sitting at a table with a bookshelf behind him / Matthew Winthrop Barzun on the red carpet
Jacques Barzun and Matthew Winthrop Barzun. Photo by Richard Rutledge, Conde Nast, Getty Images / Keith Hewitt, GC Images, Getty Images

His grandfather, Jacques Barzun, was a French American cultural historian, and his wife Brooke Barzun is an art curator and philanthropist who has a stake in her family’s Kentucky-based liquor company. The company produces Jack Daniel’s and Southern Comfort. His sister, Lucy Barzun, is a film and television producer.