The Top 100 Family Influencers – Business Leaders

Late last year, Family Capital sent out a survey to its readers asking them to nominate who they felt were the most influential individuals in the world of family enterprises. We were looking for a wide gambit of names from different backgrounds, both linked directly to family enterprises and those in an advisory role in the sector. We received more than 2000 responses. 

Through these responses and our own knowledge of the world of both family businesses and family office – indeed, the world of family capital – we were able to draw up a list of the Top 100 Influences. These are the individuals who our readers and Family Capital believe are the most influential people in the family enterprise world. No doubt some readers might think others merit inclusion and some on the list might not, but Family Capital believes the 100 names represent a pretty good cross-section of the Top Influencers in the sector. 

Given the length of the 100, we have broken them down into eight categories: Financiers; Lawyers; Executive Search; Consultants; Investors; Fictional Characters; Academics; and Business Leaders – which is our seventh group to feature in our weekly series to run over the next month and a bit. To see our first list – Investors please click here. To see our second list – Academics please click here. To see our third list – Fictional Characters please click here.  To see our fourth list – Executive Search please click here. To see our fifth list – Consultants please click here. To see our sixth list – Lawyers – please click here. 


In alphabetical order

Ambani brothers – Anil and Mukesh

Chairman of Reliance Group and chairman of Reliance Industries

The Ambani brothers – Anil and Mukesh – are Indian business icons, and also offer a very important insight on managing huge businesses through the lens of a family dynasty. The business empire their father built up was split soon after Dhirubhai Ambani’s death and the brothers then made their own way in the business world. Eldest brother Mukesh, who is now Asia’s richest man, according to Forbes, might have been the more successful, but neither has Anil faded away. Now in their sixties, the brothers continue to exert tremendous influence on the business landscape of India. 


Philip Aminoff 

Chairman at Helvar Merca and Helectron

The Finn Philip Aminoff has been a big proponent of the importance of family businesses in the world economy for years. Coming from a family business dynasty himself, Aminoff previously chaired the Brussel’s European Family Businesses Group, which lobbies on behalf of family businesses throughout Europe. Aminoff remains committed to the cause and is chairman of the Finnish Family Firms Association as well as helping to oversee numerous holding groups, many of them family-owned. 


Bernard Arnault

Chairman and chief executive of LVMH Moët Hennessy

Picture: Wikimedia

No one quite moves so smoothly in the top echelons of the business world as Bernard Arnault does. The chairman and CEO of the world’s biggest luxury-goods business is also the patriarch of a family business dynasty, which he manages with as much meticulous attention to detail as he does the huge number of businesses within the LVMH empire he oversees. Now a septuagenarian, Arnault has one eye on his successor – all five of his children work for the business, which should make the task easier. Whatever he has in mind for the business’s future leadership, Arnault’s commitment to the family business world – many of LVMH’s acquisitions have been family owned because he likes the business model – ensures his place as a top family business influencer.  


Simone Bagel-Trah

Chairman of the supervisory board of Henkel

Picture: Wikimedia

Simone Bagel-Trah, chairman of the supervisory board and chairman of the Shareholders’ Committee of Henkel, one of the biggest manufacturers of consumer and industrial chemicals in the world, is one of Germany’s top family business icons. A big proponent of the importance of innovation in the business world, Bagel-Trah, part of the fifth generation of the Henkel family that controls the eponymous business, is also a big believer in more access for those underrepresented in the corporate sector. She herself has been a pathfinder in greater gender diversity at the top of German businesses, being the first woman chairman of a listed business in the country. But crucially, she has progressed her efforts through the lens of a family business ideal that sits at the heart of the Henkel enterprise. 


Dr Tim Cooper

Managing director of Coopers Brewery

Dr Tim Cooper is perhaps the most qualified individual in the world of family businesses, having trained as a medical doctor, gaining a PhD in research in cardiopulmonary medicine and subsequently an MBA, the Adelaide-based Cooper is also managing director of Coopers, one of the poster companies of the Australian family business sector. Cooper is the fifth generation of his family to be involved in the brewery, which also makes one of Australia’s most recognised beer brands. He’s a big believer in the attributes of family businesses like patient capital and stakeholder values, and has often talked about the importance of family businesses in the world economy.  


James Dyson

Founder of Dyson 

Arguably the UK’s most famous current entrepreneur, James Dyson is also a big proponent of the family business model, having brought his two sons into the business. He said shortly after buying his son Jake’s lighting firm and bringing him into Dyson:  “The beauty of a family business is that you worry about getting the product right, not about any investors with short-term views of what others think… We can be very long term… We can be patient.” Dyson also represents one of the few tech entrepreneurs who believes in the evergreen company idea based on family ownership and stewardship, as those who nominated him have testified.   


John Elkann

Chairman and CEO of Exor

John Elkann might have inherited Italy’s most glamorous business empire when he became the fifth generation of the Agnelli family to own and manage the Fiat car-making group, but he has never let the extraordinary legacy of his predecessors get in his way to grow the business. Elkann has diversified the family business and built a holdings/investment group centred on Exor. Always a big believer in the family business model, as those who nominated him can testify, Elkann is one of Europe’s greatest icons in the sector. 


Bill Ford

Executive chairman of Ford

Bill Ford, a member of a family dynasty that probably changed the course of history more than any other through the mass production of the automobile, is a family business icon. Now on a mission to bring new forms of mobility to urban areas, as well as overseeing the huge eponymous car-maker, which is one of the top 10 family businesses in the world, according to Family Capital, Bill is a busy man, but he’s a big believer in the positive role family businesses play in society and has expressed that belief many times.


Heineken family


Probably the Netherlands’ most recognizable family business dynasty, which can trace its ownership of the eponymous brewery back to the mid-19th century, the Heinekens are great believers in the importance of the best practices of family businesses. Ownership of the family’s stake in the Amsterdam brewery is overseen these days by fourth-generation Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken and her husband, Michel de Carvalho. Other family members sit on the supervisory board of the business, and they and other members of the family very much want to keep it family-owned and independent.  

Pablo Isla

CEO of Inditex

Pablo Isla, the CEO of Inditex – the sprawling clothing empire owned by Amancio Ortega and his family most famous for its Zara brand – might be the ultimate right-hand person for a family business dynasty. Voted a few years ago by the Harvard Business Review as one of the world’s top CEOs, Isa has helped hugely in building Inditex, the owner of Zara, into the global powerhouse it is today. He and Ortega work like clockwork together, making him the ultimate non-family business executive of a family enterprise.  


Lee Kun-hee

Chairman of Samsung Group

Lee Kun-hee might be a controversial business icon, but the South Korean chairman of his family business, Samsung Group, has been hugely successful at building a global business powerhouse. Inheriting the ownership and control of Samsung from his father, Lee went on to build it into the business most of the world knows these days. In South Korea, he is the most recognisable face of the hugely powerful and influential so-called chaebols – the family-owned conglomerates which have dominated the business scene in the country. 


Li Kashing

Senior advisor for CK Hutchison Holdings

Li Ka-shing would no doubt make the list of any top 100 business leaders given his success and influence in the corporate world. Rising from a poor background to be one of the world’s most successful business leaders, Li has also created a family business dynasty, with his sons Victor and Richard as a key part of the huge empire the family oversees. Now in his nineties, Li is still a colossus in the business world even though he retired two years ago from the chairman role at CK Hutchison Holdings.


Roberto Irineu Marinho 

Chairman of Grupo Globo

The Brazilian Roberto Irineu Marinho oversees the vast media business, Grupo Globo. He and his brothers inherited a conglomerate started by his grandfather and accelerated hugely by his father, Roberto Marinho. Now Latin America’s biggest media group in terms of revenues, Grupo Globo success was driven by Roberto Irineu Marinho, who is also a big believer in the family business aspect of the company. He said recently: “I want to make it very clear that the Marinho family will not step back at all from Grupo Globo. We are and continue to want to be a family business…”


Gianni Mion

Former chairman of the Benetton Group

Gianni Mion is the ultimate non-family manager and confidante in the Italian family business world. Mion has helped manage the Benetton family enterprises and investments for years. He now sits on the board of the EssilorLuxottica business, which is controlled by the Del Vecchio family, one of Italy’s wealthiest. Mion’s huge experience in the Italian family business world, coupled with his highly regarded managerial experience means he’s often the go-to person to sort out challenges in the family management of a business, as those who nominated him can testify.  


Rupert Murdoch

Executive chairman of News Corp

Rupert Murdoch is one of the most recognisable business leaders in the world, having built up a small newspaper business he inherited from his father in Australia to an international media business. He might not see himself as a family business icon, but the various intrigues involving members of his family, namely the three children – Elisabeth, James, and Lachlan – from his second marriage, shows the family business side of the media empire is very much in play. 


Pritzker family

The Pritzkers are one of America’s greatest business dynasties, albeit these days in a fragmented fashion. Although members of the family still own a part of the Hyatt hotel chain, perhaps the business most associated with the family fortune, members of the family have since gone their separate ways. Many of them now oversee their own investment groups, like Pritzker Private Capital, Tao Capital,  PSP Capital Partners, Squadron Capital, and Blue Haven Initiative, to name a few. That makes the family one of the most influential in the world of investing. 


Queen Elizabeth II – The UK royal family

Although monarchs might not fit the family enterprise concept in its conventional way, the UK royal family and particularly the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II is a good exception, or at least as far as the many people who nominated them for the 100 Family Influencers would say. Often referred to as “the firm”, the British monarchy is at the very least an example of how family dynasties can last for centuries through adapting to changing circumstances. OK, they may have ruled for many of those years through the belief in divine intervention, but the royal family offer an interesting example of how dynasties adapt and deal with multiple challenges and come out on top. And the greatest example of this within the royal family is arguably the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. 

Benjamin Rothschild

Owner of the Edmond de Rothschild Group 

The Rothschild name is so synonymous with the family business concept – and that might be why our voters saw fit to nominate two for our list of influencers: Jacob Rothschild, in the Investors category, and Benjamin Rothschild. Benjamin makes this list because of his ability to revive and build a new business around the family brand –  namely, the Geneva-based bank, Edmond de Rothschild Group. He’s done that – with the important aid of his wife,  Ariane de Rothschild – through entrepreneurial savviness built on an extraordinary family business brand.  


Nobutada Saji

Chief executive of Suntory

One of Japan’s most recognisable business leaders, Nobutada Saji is also an icon of the hugely influential family business sector in his native country. Chief executive of the brewery company Suntory, which was founded by his grandfather, Saji has played a crucial role in growing Suntory’s business and internationalizing the brand, helped by his strong belief in the best practices of family enterprises – patience capital and stakeholder capitalism. 


Naguib Sawiris 

Chairman and CEO of Orascom Telecom 

Egypt’s and one of the Middle East’s most famous businessmen, Naguib Sawiris inherited along with his two brothers the Orascom Group from their still alive father Onsi Sawiris. Naguib has done much to further the family business dynasty as chairman and CEO of Orascom Telecom. The Sawiris family has been astute by allowing the different divisions of the vast Orascom conglomerate to be headed by Onsi’s sons, which has alleviated conflict and improved governance. And Naguib is a big believer in the importance of the family business ideal, particularly in relation to enterprises throughout the Middle East. 

Ofra Strauss

Chairperson of the Strauss Group

One of Israel’s best-known family business leaders, Ofra Strauss has done much at developing the eponymous food company she oversees to become one of the most successful businesses in her home base and beyond. The granddaughter of the founder of the Strauss Group, which is Israel’s second-biggest food producer in terms of revenue, Ofra is a big proponent of the importance of family businesses to the world economy and believes the model has helped the Strauss Group become the great business it is today. 

Ratan Tata

Former chairman of Tata Sons

Ratan Tata strides the Indian business scene like some colossus and with much justification because under his leadership Ratan has made the family business Tata Group arguably India’s most successful corporation. The great-grandson of the founder of Tata, the octogenarian is less involved in the running of the family business these days, but he was instrumental at creating Tata’s international reputation and more. Now involved in his investment group, RNT Associates, Ratan still exerts huge influence in the wider family enterprise world and is a worthy member of the 100 Family Influencers list. 


Wallenberg family

Scandinavia’s best-known family dynasty, the Wallenbergs have fundamentally influenced the business culture of Sweden and beyond for more than 150 years. They own, or have minority stakes in many of Sweden’s leading business and financial brands, including Electrolux, Ericsson, and SAAB. Through their investment group, Investor AB, the Wallenbergs have also been the archetypical family business dynasty that has moved away from the operational business where the money was originally made and built the family fortune in subsequent years through investing. 

Galen Weston

Chairman emeritus of George Weston 

British-Canadian businessman Galen Weston has been a hugely successful entrepreneur and scion of a family business at the same time, making him one of the world’s greatest businessmen. Weston built a grocery store business in Ireland through his own efforts before coming back to Canada to turn the family-owned Loblaw supermarket chain around, transforming it into the biggest supermarket chain in Canada in the 1980s.  Now in his late 70s, Galen has since taken more of a backseat in the family business empire, but remains a hugely significant figure in the family business landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. 


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