Sam Walton would probably be bewildered by the businesses his grandchildren have chosen to pursue, but the late founder of the world’s largest family fortune would likely have applauded their initiative.

Grandson Ben Walton, 44, owns Zoma Capital, which makes investments in areas such as energy and water. His cousins Steuart and Tom bought Rapha, a high-end British cycling brand, for a reported $225 million in 2017. Tom’s Ropeswing Group operates an assortment of restaurants in Bentonville, Arkansas, that target millennials.

“The Walton family has groomed the next generation as a generation of entrepreneurs,” said Byron Trott, founder of merchant bank BDT Capital Partners, who advises some of the world’s richest families.

Their high-profile investments mark a change from the previous generation, who are now in their late 60s and 70s. Despite their staggering wealth, Alice, Jim, Rob and the late John Walton kept their investments and ventures largely under wraps. But that’s changing as the younger Waltons exert more influence.

The most visible signs are in the family’s hometown. Bentonville features a clutch of trendy bars and eateries, including the Holler, a warehouse-size establishment featuring shuffleboard lanes and plant-based burgers, and Undercroft, a speakeasy below a historic church that’s now a high-end restaurant.

They’re all part of Ropeswing, which aims to remake Bentonville into a destination for young workers and their families. Bicycle trails that crisscross the town’s outskirts are the first step in plans by Tom and brother Steuart, both in their 30s, to turn Bentonville into a cycling mecca, while Steuart co-founded a company that makes aerobatic and touring airplanes. An unnamed Walton family member now sits on the board of FoodMaven, a startup that sells discounted surplus food, in which the family has an investment.

There are other signs of the younger generation’s growing influence. Three of the five members of the family foundation’s board now hail from that cohort. They include Lukas Walton, 32, who has the right to vote the general and limited partner units in Walton Enterprises of his father’s estate, court documents show. Steuart replaced his father Jim, 71, on the board of Walmart Inc. in 2016.

Kiki McLean, a spokeswoman for the family, declined to comment.

Managing such generational transitions is one of the top priorities for the world’s richest families. About $3.4 trillion of billionaire wealth is expected to be transferred over the next two decades, PwC said in a 2018 report, and succession planning is a dominant concern.

“Family succession is difficult,” said Quentin Marshall, head of private banking at Weatherbys. “As the family expands, interests diverge.”

First « 1 2 3 » Next