1. Sam Walton: Introduction
  2. Sam Walton: Early Life and Education
  3. Sam Walton: Success Story
  4. Sam Walton: Net Worth
  5. Sam Walton: Famous or Infamous
  6. Sam Walton: Most Influential Quotes

When he died of cancer in 1992, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton willed a fortune of more than $100 billion to his heirs.

From 1982 through 1988, Forbes named Sam Walton the richest man in the world, a lofty position he lost only when the magazine made the decision to consider his fortune as one held jointly with his family members. He didn’t mind losing the distinction.

"All that hullabaloo about somebody's net worth is just stupid, and it's made my life a lot more complex and difficult," Walton said in an interview. (See also: 7 Real-Life Ways To Become A Billionaire.)

Despite his immense wealth, Walton had little enthusiasm for its trappings. When touring the country to visit stores, he typically rented subcompact cars and slept either in motels or at the homes of store managers. Walton lived in the same house from 1959 until his death in 1992, and when at home, drove a red pickup truck.

He said on many occasions that the money, beyond a certain point, was relatively unimportant. That view of humility was put to the test in the stock market crash of 1987, when the Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 508 points in a day. That week, Wal-Mart shares fell by 23%, causing roughly $1.7 billion of Walton's wealth to simply evaporate. When reporters caught up with Walton in Little Rock, Arkansas, they asked for his response to such a loss.

"It's paper anyway," Walton told them. "It was paper when we started and it's paper afterward."

Richest family in America

Today, the Walton family is the wealthiest family in America, according to Forbes, with a combined net worth of roughly $140 billion as of late 2017.

The Walton fortune is so vast that, in 2017, three separate Waltons ranked among the 20 richest people in America on the Forbes 400.

Christy Walton, the widow of Sam Walton’s son, John, who died in a plane crash in 2005, was the 85th-wealthiest person in the United States as of 2017.  She boasts a net worth of $7.6 billion, mostly in Wal-Mart stock.

Jim Walton, Sam's youngest son, had $48.4 billion in net worth in 2017, good for 11th on the list of the wealthiest Americans. After his brother John died, Jim took his spot on the Walmart Board of Directors. He is CEO of the family-owned Arvest Bank.

Alice Walton, the child that Sam Walton once described as being most like him, came in 13th on the 2017 list of wealthiest Americans, with a net worth of $48 billion.

The eldest, Samuel Robson "Rob" Walton was the 12th-richest American in 2017, according to Forbes, with a net worth of more than $48 billion. He served as Chairman of the Wal-Mart board from his father’s death in 1992 until 2015, passing the torch to his son-in-law, Greg Penner.

Before Sam Walton had even made his first billion, he had begun to set up elaborate trusts and mechanisms to leave his company in the control of his wife and children. That was one detail that his mentor and father-in-law Leland Stanford Robson had insisted upon. Thanks to his planning, the Walton family today still controls a majority of shares in the company.

Together, the Walton family formed the Walton Family Foundation, which is the 22nd largest charitable foundation in the United States, with $2.2 billion in assets. Given the wealth of the Waltons, the foundation is relatively small compared to the charitable commitments made by other multi-billionaires such as Bill Gates, who has endowed the majority of his wealth to his charitable foundation.

The Walton Family Foundation largely funded the construction of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. The museum, which opened in 2011, was made possible by the foundation’s donation of more than $1.4 billion.


Sam Walton: Famous or Infamous
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