The Waltons are the richest family in the US, with a net worth of $215 billion – coming from their stake in Walmart, the world's largest retailer by sales.
The family, however, had a humble begining - from owning just one Ben Franklin variety store in Arkansas, their fortune grew to the retail empire Walmart is known as today.
Walmart is the world's largest retailer by revenue with annual sales of $500 billion from its nearly 12,000 stores around the world, reports the Forbes.
Nearly half of Walmart's stock is held by seven heirs of the retail chain's founders Sam Walton and his brother James Walton. Heirs include Sam's three living children - Rob, Jim and Alice, his daughter-in-law Christy and her son Lukas, James' two daughters - Ann and Nancy. Rob Walton served as chairman for more than two decades and remains on the board, alongside current chairman Greg Penner, his son-in-law.
The family also owns Arvest Bank, which operates 16 banks in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Kansas.
From baby steps to making it big
Growing up during the Great Depression, Samuel Walton did chores to help make financial ends meet for his family as was common at the time. He milked the family cow, bottled the surplus, and drove it to customers. Afterwards, he would deliver newspapers on a paper route. In addition, he sold magazine subscriptions.
After high school, Walton decided to attend college, hoping to find a better way to help support his family. He attended the University of Missouri. During this time, he worked various odd jobs, including waiting tables in exchange for meals. He elaborated that he learned from a very early age that it was important for them as kids to help provide for the home, to be givers rather than takers.
Walton joined JC Penney as a management trainee, three days after graduating from college. This position paid him $75 a month. Walton spent approximately 18 months with JC Penney. He resigned in 1942 in anticipation of being inducted into the military for service in World War II. In the meantime, he worked at a DuPont munitions plant. Walton joined the military in the US Army Intelligence Corps, supervising security at aircraft plants and prisoner of war camps. He eventually reached the rank of captain.
In 1945, after leaving the military, Walton took over management of his first variety store at the age of 26. With the help of a $20,000 loan from his father-in-law, plus $5,000 he had saved from his time in the Army, Walton purchased a Ben Franklin variety store in Newport, Arkansas. The store was a franchise of the Butler Brothers chain.
Sam Walton thought if he offered prices as good as or better than stores in cities that were four hours away by car, people would shop at home. Walton made sure the shelves were consistently stocked with a wide range of goods. His second store, the tiny "Eagle" department store, was down the street from his first Ben Franklin and next door to its main competitor in Newport.
Walmart and the retail empire
The first true Walmart opened on 2 July, 1962, in Rogers, Arkansas; it was called the Wal-Mart Discount City store.
Sam Walton made the decision to achieve higher sales volumes by keeping sales prices lower than his competitors by reducing his profit margin. Responsible for the purchase and maintenance of signage, Walton's assistant, Bob Bogle, came up with the name "Wal-Mart" for the new chain.
He launched a determined effort to market American-made products. Included in the effort was a willingness to find American manufacturers who could supply merchandise for the entire Walmart chain at a price low enough to meet the foreign competition.
By 1967, The Walton family owned 24 stores, ringing up $12.7 million in sales.
The company officially incorporated as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. in 1969, and the next year, it went national. The same year, Walmart become a publicly traded company also; the first stock is sold at $16.50 per share.
Walmart became listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1972; with 51 stores, Walmart recorded sales of $78 million.
Presently Walmart has 11,510 stores and clubs in 27 countries, operating under 56 different names. Walmart is now the world's largest company by revenue, with $514.405 billion, according to the Fortune Global 500 list in 2019.
It is also the largest private employer in the world with 2.2 million employees. It is a publicly traded family-owned business.
Walton Family Foundation
The Walton family established the Walton Family Foundation in 1987. The foundation works in three areas: improving K-12 education, protecting rivers and oceans and the communities they support, and investing in family's home region of Northwest Arkansas and the Arkansas-Mississippi Delta.
The heirs to the empire
The three children of Walmart founder Sam Walton co-own Walton Enterprises, along their cousins - which is the biggest shareholder of the company and the reason behind their wealth.
Only one of the siblings, Rob Walton, sits on the board of the company. James Walton, his brother, served on the board until 2016, before being replaced by his son Steuart in 2016. Alice Walton, the youngest sibling, has never taken an active role running the business and has instead become a patron of the arts.
Samuel Robson Walton
Samuel Robson "Rob" Walton, the oldest Walton son. He served as chairman of Walmart until 2015.
He has a large collection of vintage cars. In 2013, he ran his Daytona Coupe, which was at the time worth $15 million, off the tracks and wrecked it. The car was one of only five ever made.
John Walton, died in a plane crash in 2005, at the age of 58.
John was married to Christy Walton and had one son, named Lukas. John left about 17% of his wealth to his wife, and the rest was given to charity and to his son.
James "Jim" Walton is the youngest son of Walmart founder Sam Walton. He is estimated to be worth $42.1 billion.
He is chairman of the board of the family's Arvest Bank, which has assets that total more than $18 billion.
Jim also served on the Walmart board before being replaced by his son Steuart in 2016.
The youngest sibling, Alice Walton, is worth $40.4 billion. She has been divorced twice and has no children.
Alice has never taken an active role running the business and has instead become a patron of the arts. She fell in love with the arts at a young age. When she was 10, she bought her first work of art: a reproduction of a Picasso painting for about $2, she told The New Yorker.
She has an immense private art collection, with original works from Andy Warhol and Georgia O'Keefe. Alice opened a museum called Crystal Bridges in 2011 to house her $500 million private art collection. When it opened, it had four times the endowment of the famous Whitney Museum in New York.
In 2014, she spent $44.4 million on a Georgia O'Keefe painting. It was the biggest sale for a woman's piece of art in history.
Alice is also a breeder of horses. Her Millsap, Texas, property, Rocking W Ranch, recently sold for an undisclosed amount. It had an initial asking price of $19.75 million, but was most recently listed for $16.5 million. The working ranch has over 250 acres of pasture and outbuildings for cattle and horses.
Her other 4,416-acre Texas ranch was previously listed at a reduced price of $22 million. The modest, three-bedroom, two-bath home overlooks a river. Alice also owns a two-floor condo on New York's Park Avenue. She bought the property for $25 million in 2014. It has more than 52 large windows overlooking Central Park, plus a media room and over 6,000 square feet of space.
In January 2016, Alice donated 3.7 million of her Walmart shares — worth about $225 million at the time — to the family's nonprofit, the Walton Family Foundation. The charity donated around $530 million in 2017.
Ann Walton Kroenke
Ann Walton Kroenke and her sister, Nancy Walton Laurie, inherited stock from her father, James "Bud" Walton - brother and business partner of Sam Walton.
She is the owner of the Denver Nuggets of the NBA and Colorado Avalanche of the NHL. Her husband, Stan Kroenke, is the majority owner and CEO of the Los Angeles Rams (NFL), Arsenal (Premier League), Colorado Rapids (Major League Soccer), and Colorado Mammoth (National Lacrosse League). Ann owns the Colorado Avalanche (NHL) and Denver Nuggets (NBA) to satisfy NFL ownership restrictions that forbid a team owner from having teams in other markets.
Nancy Walton Laurie
Nancy Walton Laurie is the younger daughter of Bud Walton.
With her husband, she donated $25 million to the University of Missouri for the construction of a new sports arena for the Missouri Tigers in 2001, to be named after their daughter Paige Laurie, who did not attend the university.
Laurie is the founder of the Nancy Walton Laurie Leadership Institute at the Chi Omega sorority. She was the president and founder of a New York City dance company called the Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, which closed in 2015.
She is the owner of the Columbia Performing Arts Centre, a dance studio located in Columbia, Missouri.