Sam Walton launched his retail career in 1950 when he opened a five-and-dime store in downtown Bentonville, Arkansas. This successful endeavor ultimately paved the way for the creation of the first Walmart store, in 1962.

Walton, who died at the age of 74, left a substantial portion of the business to his wife and his four children. In total, the Walton family currently owns nearly half of the company, which operates as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT).

Key Takeaways

  • Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton left approximately half of the company's equity to his wife and four children.
  • Jim C. Walton, Sam's youngest living son, holds 10.5 direct shares of the company.
  • Alice Walton, Sam's only daughter, claims 6.7 million shares.
  • S. Robson, Sam's oldest living son, holds a total of 3.34 million shares.
  • Entrepreneur Marc Lore, a non-Walton family member who has held senior positions with the company, owns 3.3 million shares.

Jim C. Walton

Jim Walton, Sam's youngest living son, possesses the most equity in the company, holding 10.5 direct shares as of July 2018. Jim joined Walmart in 1972 when he went to work in the company's real estate division.

In 1975, Jim Walton became president of Walton Enterprises in 1975, and in April 2016, he retired from Walmart's board of directors. Jim is the chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Arvest Bank, which operates community banking locations in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and Kansas. He also serves as chairman of Community Publishers, a high-profile newspaper and Internet concern.

Alice L. Walton

Alice Walton, Sam's only daughter, claims the second-highest equity stake in the company, with 6.7 million shares, as of July 2018. Alice began her career in finance, working at First Commerce Corporation and Arvest Bank. In 1988, she founded an investment bank called the Llama Company; however, that entity ultimately failed. Alice is best known for securing the Walton Family Foundation's support for the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, located in Bentonville, Arkansas.

S. Robson Walton

S. Robson, Sam's oldest living son, holds the third-largest equity stake in the company, with a total of 3.34 million shares as of July 2018. After graduating from the Columbia University School of Law in 1969, S. Robson joined the law firm Conner & Winters, which would later represent Walmart. In 1978, he left the law firm to serve as the senior vice president of Walmart. Two days after his father's death in 1992, he was named chairman of the board of directors at Walmart—a position he held until 2015.

Marc Lore

Marc Lore, a graduate of Bucknell University, is the fourth-largest individual shareholder of Walmart stock, with 3.3 million shares as of July 2018. He is the president and CEO of Walmart U.S. eCommerce, a role he assumed in 2016 after Walmart acquired Jet.com, an e-commerce company Lore founded in April 2014.

The Walton family’s strategy of retaining a large share of their company has inspired other behemoth public corporations to follow suit, such as Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who controls most of that company via a special share ownership structure.

Walton Enterprises

Walton Enterprises LLC is the business responsible for managing the Walton family’s mega-fortune. As of the last proxy filing on April 6, 2018, the enterprise managed more than 1.4 billion shares of Walmart stock for the Walton family.

Back in 1953, Sam Walton began strategically arranging his finances in order to avoid or mitigate potential estate taxes. Splitting up the assets among his family before they had a chance to appreciate in value, saved the family untold sums of money. This falls in line with Walton Enterprises' primary goal of interpreting the tax code as in a way that lets the Walton family and its heirs retain as much of the family fortune as possible.