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Walton and Koch families prominent on Forbes 400 rich list

Many of the US’s richest people have family businesses to thank for their huge fortunes, but the number of people who inherited their wealth on Forbes’s 2011 list of the wealthiest Americans has fallen.

Many of the US’s richest people have family businesses to thank for their huge fortunes, but the number of people who inherited their wealth on Forbes’s 2011 list of the wealthiest Americans has fallen.

Just 30% of the people on this year’s Forbes 400 list inherited wealth, down from 45% in 1997, as a growing number of entrepreneurs, like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, make their own billion-dollar fortunes.

However, five of the top 10 richest people inherited at least some of their wealth, including three members of the Walton family, which controls Walmart.

Christy Walton, the daughter-in-law of Walmart founder Sam Walton, is the sixth richest American with $24.5 billion (€18.12 billion), while Sam’s son Jim Walton and daughter Alice Walton took the ninth and tenth spots on the rich list. Three other family members also made the top 400.

Brothers Charles Koch and David Koch, whose father Fred founded Koch Industries, tied for fourth place with $25 billion each.

Thanks to his fortune of $59 billion, Bill Gates retained his place at the top of the list, followed by investor Warren Buffett.

George Soros, who recently decided to turn his hedge fund Soros Fund Management into a family office, also featured in the top 10 with $25 billion.

In total, 18 families made the list, including seven descendants of WW Cargill, the man behind what has become the world’s largest private company Cargill - a conglomerate with interests in agriculture, food production and financial services. 

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