Top Ten Richest Families in Europe

Top Ten Richest Families in Europe
Image courtesy of Jérémy Barande / Ecole polytechnique Université Paris-Saclay

Historically, many of Europe’s wealthiest families built their original fortunes many generations ago. However, in recent years, a number of entrepreneurial families have created highly successful businesses for themselves, kicking off new legacies. Today, the richest families across the continent are comprised of an interesting mix of old- and new-money and include prominent companies.

We have compiled a list of the top 10 wealthiest families in Europe (by net worth, 2016):

10. The Reuben Family

Country of Origin: England

Net worth: $16.45 billion

Born in Mumbai, India, David Reuben and Simon Reuben, collectively known as the “Reuben brothers”, are reputed as the richest family in Britain and among the richest in the world with a combined net worth of $16.45 billion according to Sunday Times. The brothers began building their wealth by trading scrap metals and later went on to own an aluminium company called Trans-World Metals, which was at that time the world’s third largest producer of aluminium thanks to heavy and lucrative investments in Russia. At the turn of the century, the brothers began divesting from their Russian business interests and instead ventured into U.K. real estate, where they have invested in high-profile properties such as Milibank Tower, once London’s tallest building. The Reuben’s net worth has progressively increased, especially in 2011, when their net worth doubled.

9. The Otto Family

Country of Origin: Germany

Net Worth: $16.9 billion

Michael Otto, of German descent, is the custodian of the Otto family wealth. He presently heads the Otto Group, the world’s largest mail order service with a presence in over 120 nations. Under Otto’s leadership, the group has also grown over the years to become a massive online retailer, with brands such as Crate & Barrel and 3 Suisses under its control. Next to leading the Otto Group, the Otto family has invested heavily in real estate, with high profile properties in the United States, Canada, and Germany. Today, Michael Otto is the executive board chairman and owns the majority of the company. Known as a committed environmentalist, Otto and his family company has long touted environmentally safe products.

8. The Persson Family

Country of Origin: Sweden

Net Worth: $19.6 billion

Stefan Persson of Swedish fast fashion giant H&M (Hennes & Mauritz) is the country’s richest man and one of the wealthiest in Europe. Persson and family own a 28% stake and he serves as chairman. His father, Erling Persson, founded the chain in 1947, with Stefan Persson taking over the company 1982 and serving as its manager until 1998. H&M operates with an audacious goal of a 10% annual increase in new stores, causing it to average one store opening a day. His son Karl-Johan is the current CEO and president and is worth $2.4 billion.

7. The Albrecht Family

Country of Origin: Germany

Net Worth: $20.1 billion

In the early 1900’s the Albrecht family started a small grocery store with a low-cost business model that ultimately evolved into the Aldi superstores, which are now leading global discount supermarket chains. The original company, which was founded and run by brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht, split into two brands, Aldi Nord and Aldi Südin in 1960 after a dispute over whether to sell cigarettes. Theo, who retained ownership of the Aldi brand in Germany and in most European countries, soon pursued further international expansion by acquiring popular U.S. grocery chain Trader Joe’s. Today, the Aldi company has over 10,000 stores in 18 countries, and an estimated turnover of more than €50 billion. Both businesses are under a family foundation headed by Theo Jr. and his mother. Like its founding members, the family continues to maintain a low profile and their activities are kept away from the public spotlight.

6. The Schaeffler Family

Country of Origin: Germany

Net Worth: $22.4 billion

As the founding family of the Schaeffler Group, The Schaeffler family is one of the wealthiest families in Europe, with Georg Schaeffler Jr. and his mother Maria-Elisabeth Schaeffler respectively owning 80% and 20% of INA Holding, the Schaeffler Group’s holding company. The history of family company dates back to 1946 when Georg Schaeffler Sr. and his brother Wilhelm founded a manufacturing company that produced wooden buttons and buckles. Soon, the company was producing ball and roller bearings for automotive, aerospace and industrial uses. Today, the Schaefllers both have a combined net worth of around $22.4 billion.

5. The Ferrero family

Country of Origin: Italy

Net worth: $24.1 billion

Ferrero SpA is a beloved Italian manufacturer of chocolates that hardly needs any introduction. Founded by Pietro Ferrero in 1946 after he invented a cream of hazelnuts and chocolate, the company transformed into a highly successful confectionary brand with iconic brands such Nutella, Kinder and Ferrero Rocher under its umbrella. With Nutella as the world’s leading chocolate-nut spread brand, Ferrero is the world’s largest consumer of hazelnuts, buying up 25% of global production. After the company saw a period of tremendous growth and success under Pietro’s son Michele Ferrero, the company was handed over to Michele’s son Pietro (named after his grandfather). However, Pietro died in 2011 after a cycling accident in South Africa at the age of 47, leaving his brother Giovanni to serve as acting Chairman and CEO. Michele Ferrero passed on in February, 2015 and his widow, Maira Franca Fissolo, became the custodian of the family wealth; she has a net worth of $24.1 billion as of August 2016.

4. The Mulliez Family

Country of Origin: France

Net worth: $30 billion

Just the Walton family is well-known to Americans for owning the largest retail company in the world, the Mulliez are known to the French for their ownership of one of the world’s largest retail conglomerates with over 20 different global brands under its umbrella. The Mulliez’s started in clothing but later moved into retail due to the collapse of the French textile industry in the 1950s. Gerrard Mulliez launched his first Auchan store in 1961 after being inspired by the American departmental store model. The company is now one of the world’s principal distribution groups with well-known brands like Auchan, Boulanger, Decathlon, and Phildar. Today, approximately one thousand family members co-owns the holding company Association Familiale Mulliez, with 600 cousins of the Mulliez family becoming millionaires as a result.

3. The Bettencourt Family

Country of Origin: France

Net worth: $36.1 billion

Founded in 1909 by French chemist Eugène Paul Louis Schueller, L’Oréal has gone on to become the world’s largest cosmetics company thanks to its presence in cosmetics, hair care, and skin care. In 1957, after the death of her father and founder, Liliane Henriette Charlotte Bettencourt inherited the family wealth and became its major shareholder. As the company’s board director, Bettencourt successfully steered its affairs until she was relieved of her position in 2012 by a court injunction, in which her daughter accused her of suffering from dementia. Her grandson, Jean-Victor Meyers has since replaced her on the board. Today, the Bettencourts control 33% stake worth $36.1 billion in L’Oréal, making Liliane Bettencourt the world’s richest woman, and the 11th richest person in the world.

2. The Arnault Family

Country of Origin: France

Net worth: $39.6 billion

The Arnault family hails from France and are best known as the owners of the global luxury brand, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH). Bernard Arnault, the family patriarch, assumed office as the group’s Chairman and CEO in 1989 and has since transformed it into a global holding group with over 70 different brands and operating 3,700 retail stores across the globe. Having inherited a successful real estate company (formerly a construction company) from his father, Arnault made his foray into luxury goods with a $15 million acquisition of Financière Agache, a luxury goods company, which gave him ownership of the iconic brand, Christian Dior. Today, with two of his children, Antonie and Delphine also serving on the group’s top management team, Bernard controls both LVMH and Christian Dior, and the family is collectively worth $39.6 billion, making them the wealthiest in France.

1. The Ortega Family

Country of Origin: Spain

Net Worth: $72 billion

When Zara founder Amancio Ortega was a boy, he and his mother went to buy some groceries, he overheard someone telling her that they couldn’t keep giving her credit to buy the food to feed her family. According to his biographer, Ortega claimed that was the horrible moment in which he resolved never to allow poverty to affect his family. Today, as the founder and chairman of Inditex fashion group, best known for its fast fashion brand Zara, Ortega is the second richest man in the world, worth $72.8 billion as of January 2017. His daughter Sandra inherited a 7% stake in Inditex following the passing of her mother, making her the wealthiest woman in Spain.