Wal Mart, BMW, IKEA, LVMH, Tata Motors and Sears are all big brands, well known by consumers around the world, and family businesses. But there are a large number of family businesses very few people have ever heard of, despite many of them being huge players in their sectors. Privately owned, these businesses influence global commerce as much as the big and well-known brands - but do it very discreetly. Here’s ten of them.
Arabian Fal Group
OK, name five Saudi businesses? Stumped, thought so. Saudi Arabian companies don’t score high on the global business brand recognition scale, but the country has a few very powerful, little known businesses - most of them family controlled. One of them is Arabian Fal Group, and it’s huge, with annual revenues of more than of $80 billion. The Global Family Business Index ranks it as the 11 biggest family business in the world in revenue terms - that’s big by any business standards. The construction and engineering group was set up in 1979 and is controlled by the Al-Sayed family.
A US business based in a suburb of Chicago with revenues of around $22 billion, Reyes is one of America’s biggest food wholesaler and distributors. But has anyone outside of the fast food world ever heard of it? McDonald's, the hamburger group, wouldn’t be anywhere without Reyes, nor would America’s beer drinkers, because it is one of the biggest distributors of food and beer to these groups anywhere. Controlled by the Reyes family since 1976, Reyes is good at keeping a low profile.
Marquard & Bahls
Germany has probably more privately controlled big family businesses than anywhere else in the world - and many of them are hardly known in their home country, let alone globally. Hamburg-based Marquard & Bahls is among the biggest of these types of businesses - and least well known. The energy supply and trading group was set up in 1947 and is controlled by the Weisser family. It has annual revenues of more than $20 billion.
Italy has its fair share of very famous family businesses, including huge brands like Fiat, Prada and Campari, but few outside of the oil industry might have heard of Saras. Based on the island of Sardinia, Saras is a huge oil refinery group, which was set up by Angelo Moratti in 1962. His son Massimo Moratti now runs the business. Massimo might run and own Saras, but his involvement with one of Italy’s most famous football teams, Internazionale Milano, better known as Inter Milan, is the basis of his reputation.
Very few people have heard of Techint, but it is one of Europe’s biggest holding companies with annual revenues of around $20 billion. Controlled by an Italian/Argentinian family called Rocca, Techint own various companies, including one of Latin America’s biggest steel groups Ternium, and a network of hospitals in Italy called Humanitas. Now controlled by the third generation, Techint was set up by Agostino Rocca in 1945.
The Austrian company makes parts for cars and steel tubes, and also has a big engineering business, but few outside of Austria have heard of it. It is one of many billion dollar-plus car component companies in German-speaking Europe that keep away from the limelight. Founded in 1876, Benteler is now controlled by the fourth generation of the Benteler family led by Hubertus Benteler, who’s better known for living in one of Austria’s biggest castles. Benteler had revenues of €7.5 billion in 2015.
The biggest supplier of french fries to fast-food chains around the world, Simplot isn’t exactly a household name. Based in Boise, Idaho, Simplot was founded by John Richard Simplot in 1929, who only died in 2008. Still controlled by the Simplot family, the company makes around $6 billion annually.
The Dutch may lay claim to one of the world’s most famous family business brands, Heineken, but they also have a few lesser known big family businesses, like Hoogwegt, the world’s biggest privately owned dairy ingredient provider. Based in Arnhem, the group was launched in 1965 by Henk Hoogwegt whose family still control and own the business.
Roche might be one of Switzerland’s best known family businesses, but the Alpine nation has a many less well known, but nevertheless big and highly successful family businesses. Omya, a maker of industrial minerals from calcium carbonate and dolomite, is more than 100 years old and is controlled by descendants of the founder, Gottfried Plüss-Staufer. It has revenues of around $4 billion annually.
The Indian-based Wadia Group might have been around since 1736, making it one of the oldest businesses in the world, but all that time hasn’t helped with brand recognition. Still controlled by the Wadia family, it owns a number of better known brands like Go Air, a low cost airline operating from Mumbai, and Bombay Dyeing, one of India’s biggest textile companies.