Throughout the centuries, power has often been delegated to small groups of people, particularly to families. Even now, the idea that high social status and influence can be “inherited” much like genes continues to be relevant. We are no longer living in the age of all-powerful kings and queens.
However, there are still a few families that run the world, controlling companies in many different industries, from retail, to banking, to insurance, to debt collection.
Today, we will look at the most powerful last names. Still, this article is not going to be about the wealthiest families on the planet. Instead, it will focus on bloodlines with influence in many fields — from economics and education to politics and the media.
Also, we are not going to talk about dynasties that have long lost their shine, such as the Astors. We will only discuss those that hold considerable power today, starting with the least influential.
The Rockefeller clan began its journey on the road to success in the 19th century. In 1870, John D. Rockefeller founded the oil processing company Standard Oil. That was a brilliant move since back then there were many oil drilling businesses and almost no processing plants.
Rockefeller’s business had no competition in the U.S. So, to break up his monopoly, the American government introduced an antitrust law. As a result, the oil magnate had to sell a big part of his company shares. Ironically, that helped him make a fortune.
Today, the family is no longer as influential (and wealthy) as it was in the past. However, it has control over one of the largest financial institutions in the world — JPMorgan Chase. That has to count for something, right?
2. Capetian Dynasty
Speaking of aristocracy: the Capetian dynasty is one of the world’s most powerful royal families. It was founded in the 10th century A.D., and it has members all over the globe. In the past, Capetian monarchs have ruled a long list of European countries, including France, Portugal, and Poland. At one point, Capetians even headed the Empire of Brazil.
Today, the dynasty continues to be influential in Europe. Currently, two of its members are active monarchs of Luxembourg and Spain.
Unless you are from India, this may be the first time you hear of the Tata clan. The family is from Mumbai, and it owns Tata Group, one of the biggest conglomerates in India. Thanks to that, members of the dynasty have a significant influence in many industries in their country. Among them are real estate, finance, as well as steel and iron production.
Although the family’s power is concentrated in its homeland, it’s worth a spot on our list. After all, India is not only one of the largest economies in the world but also among the world’s fastest-growing ones.
Interestingly, the members of the family are related to the Petit baronets. Therefore, the Tata clan has blue blood in their veins.
Some of the families that run the world today have strong political connections. The perfect example of that is the Bush family. Its members have been holding key political offices in America for almost 70 years now. So, the dynasty has influenced American politics like no one else.
It has been a while since the Bush family last made the headlines. Still, its power and influence have not diminished. Some of its members continue to work in politics, while others head major corporations.
The Ruperts are a South African family that has an impressive flair for business. Their road to power and wealth started in the 1940s. Around that time, Anton Rupert established a tobacco company. Years later, the South African expanded his business empire and gained control of several investment groups.
Nowadays, the Rupert family controls many private hospitals and wineries in South Africa. Also, they own some of the world’s top luxury brands, like Montblanc, Piaget, and Cartier. So, it comes as no surprise that the Ruperts are among the most successful families in Africa.
Like the Ruperts, the Oppenheimers are also from South Africa. But instead of luxury brands and cigarette companies, they own a great part of the planet’s gold reserves. What’s more, they also have control over the world’s diamond and platinum industries.
Nicky Oppenheimer is the current head of the family. Although he retired a few years ago, he continues to be on Forbes’ list of billionaires.
The media is often viewed as the fourth branch of the government. Therefore, anyone who owns a large media company holds great power in their hands. The Murdochs control several broadcasting networks that operate across three continents. So, they easily rank among the top families that run the world.
In 2011, the founder of the clan, Rupert Murdoch, ended up in the middle of an international phone-hacking scandal. However, this setback proved to be only temporary as his empire continues to thrive to this day.
The Pritzker family is an example of the American dream. They arrived from Ukraine in the late-19th century. Fifty years later, they started investing in real estate. By the 1960s, the Pritzkers had already become owners of several luxury hotels.
Today, the family runs a chain of almost 900 hotels. Plus, they own an airline and a cruise line.
The Pritzkers are more than hospitality moguls. They also have shares in different financial institutions. The members of the dynasty are no strangers to politics either. A few years ago, they endorsed the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
Once upon a time, the Morgans were one of the wealthiest and most successful families in the world. The banking dynasty’s most prominent member was J. P. Morgan. He established the financial company J.P. Morgan & Co. (nowadays JPMorgan Chase & Co.), and he monopolized several industries in the United States.
After the businessman’s death in 1913, however, the dynasty started to lose both its money and its power. The descendants of J. P. Morgan struggled to follow in his footsteps. Although they are still among the families that run the world, their power is now diminishing. Yet, it’s a bit too early to write them off completely.
The Waltons are behind the world’s largest retail chain — Walmart. The dynasty has thousands of stores in the US alone, and its combined wealth amounts to $191 billion. According to Bloomberg, the family makes $100 million per day.
So, how do the Waltons spend their billions? For the most part, they invest in works of art, vintage cars, and properties. They also donate money for education and environmental initiatives. In more recent years, the family has also offered its financial support to several American politicians.
11. House of Windsor
The House of Windsor consists of the modern British royal family, and it’s currently headed by Queen Elizabeth II. The UK monarch plays a representative role in their country. Therefore, the Queen has almost no political power. However, she and the rest of the Windsors are among the elite families that run the world.
For starters, the House of Windsor owns the greatest amount of land in the UK. Also, the family receives an annual Sovereign Grant of more than $100 million. On top of that, Queen Elizabeth II and her clan have private trust funds and an impressive jewelry collection.
Aside from being wealthy, the Windsors are also popular and powerful. Every year, their brand attracts millions of tourists to the United Kingdom. Most importantly, the British royals use their position to shine a light on various social issues.
For instance, Princess Diana destigmatized HIV/AIDS and raised eating disorder awareness. Prince Charles, on the other hand, is a passionate environmentalist.
Almost all families that run the world often happen to also run a successful business. The Koch clan is no exception. However, it owns not one but several companies that operate across various sectors. Furthermore, the dynasty’s Koch Industries is the second-biggest private company in the United States.
The Koch brothers who used to head the family are famous for their political ambitions. They even established several political organizations. Also, one of the brothers was a US vice-presidential candidate in the 1980s.
13. House of Saud
The House of Saud is the third and highest-ranking royal family on our list. What’s more, it may even be the largest one too because it has tens of thousands of members. Still, only a couple thousand of them have actual influence and access to the dynasty’s wealth of over $1 trillion.
Unlike the Windsors, the Sauds have absolute power in their country. For instance, the King of Saudi Arabia can declare war on other nations or introduce new laws. Also, the monarch has given key military and political posts to many members of his family. By doing so, he has successfully solidified his position.
Since they head an oil-rich country like Saudi Arabia, the Sauds hold one-fifth of the world’s oil reserves. Needless to say, that secures them considerable power and wealth.
Out of all the families that run the world, the Rothschilds have the most powerful last name by far. The banking dynasty controls many of the central banks in the world. Plus, its financial companies have offices in over forty countries.
The Rothschilds are also among the wealthiest families that run the world. In fact, the clan is so rich that it financed England’s war against Napoleon. No other family has such a significant international influence. So, no one deserves the top spot on our list more than the Rothschild dynasty.
For the most part, the families that run the world today are super wealthy. However, they are not powerful because they are rich. In reality, they are influential because they invest their money strategically.