How Did the Mars Family Get So Rich?

The Mars family is one of the wealthiest in the world, and its name is synonymous with cheap American chocolate. Besides its eponymous Mars candy bar, it’s also the first M in M&M’s (Mars and Murrie). Of course, that’s not all this multigenerational family-owned company makes.

When they’re not lobbying against the estate tax, the family is notoriously private, despite having a combined net worth around $100 billion

As one of the world’s richest families, however, it’s important to understand the background and power Mars holds in its name. The estate stayed in the family, and because it’s privately owned, one could argue the family has more control over its company (and therefore the family fortune) than the Waltons.

In fact, Mars is consistently ranked in the top 10 largest private companies in the United States. It’s number seven in 2021, according to Forbes, which also ranks the Mars family as the third richest in the country.

What Does the Mars Family Own?

Mars, Incorporated was founded in June 1911 in Tacoma, Washington by Frank C. Mars, an experienced candy salesman.

Wrigley already existed in Chicago, Illinois as a popular confectionary company making chewing gums like Juicy Fruit as early as 1893. Mars acquired Wrigley in 2008 in a $23 billion deal, and that’s just one of many businesses it acquired in over a century in business.

The Mars family owns a wide portfolio of brands, like Snickers, Twix, Skittles, Dove, Orbit, Altoids, Uncle Bens, and even Whiskas. The company made the first chocolate nougat, but Frank’s son Forrest Sr. fell out with his father and moved to England to start his own company.

It’s heavily involved in the pet market, after buying VCA Animal Hospitals, Banfield Pet Hospital, and Pedigree Petfoods, among others in the 20th Century. The original branch out into pet care started in 1934, when Forrest Sr. and Frank merged their companies.

Is Mars Still Family Owned?

The Mars company is still owned by the Mars family, and Forrest Sr. was known as a frugal man who made his children earn their money, so they remained humble. His children – Forrest Jr., Jacqueline, and John – inherited the company when he died in 1999.

John (born in 1935) and Jacqueline (born in 1939) are the current company co-owners, but they don’t actively manage the company. Instead, Jacqueline lives the billionaire life, living across multiple sprawling properties worth millions. Meanwhile, her son, Stephen Badger, remains the chairman of this family-owned business.

Although the company and family effectively hid behind their world-famous brands for over a century, it’s on a new path to transparency these days. This is a long way from years past, where the company’s Virginia headquarters are jokingly known as “the Kremlin,” but it still has a long way to go toward appealing to Generation Z in the internet age.

Who Are the Mars Heirs?

Current Mars chairman Stephen Badger has two sisters from Jacqueline and ex-husband David Badger – Alexandra B. Airth and Christa M. Badger. Not much is known about this branch of the family, as Jacqueline is very private.

Forrest Mars Jr. died in 2016 at the age of 84, leaving an 8 percent stake to each of his four daughters – Marijke, Pamela, Valerie, and Victoria. Each worked in various capacities for the family business and inevitably joined the board of directors. This means the multigenerational family owns and runs the company at the top level. 

John Mars has three children – Linda, Frank, and Michael Mars. They are assumed to be the heirs of his stake in the family company and fortune. Of course, it can be difficult to get clear information on exactly what’s happening with either.

While the company is more open than it used to be, it’s still tight-lipped from generations of training. Billionaires like Richard Branson and Mark Cuban love to be in the public eye, but the Mars family prefers to be anonymous. 

What Is the Richest Candy Company?

With net sales clocking in at $20 billion in 2020, Mars Wrigley is the world’s leading candy company. Its nearest competitors are Ferrero Group at $13.57 billion, Mondelez International at $11.47 billion, Meiji Co at $10.08 billion, and Hersey Co at $8.07 billion, according to Statista.

The candy industry is worth over $200 billion, so it’s no wonder the Mars family is so rich for dominating it consistently over the generations. Not only that, but it’s expected to grow from $217 billion in 2020 to $290.7 billion by 2028.

If you’re hoping to get involved in the industry yourself, the Sweets and Snacks Expo is the place to be. It’s the largest confectionary trade show on the planet, and although you can’t invest in Mars, you can invest in rivals like Hershey Co (NYSE:HSY), Tootsie Roll Industries (NYSE:TR), and Mondelez International (NASDAQ:MDLZ).

How Much Is the Mars Family Worth?

The combined net worth of the Mars family is difficult to pin down exactly, but it’s estimated to be around $100 billion. John and Jacqueline are each worth an estimated $31.3 billion, ranking them individually in the top 50 wealthiest people on Forbes’ billionaire list.

Heading into the 2020s, the family remains the 3rd richest family in North America. This is predominantly due to the family’s full ownership in Mars, Incorporated. Its five major business segments are Mars Wrigley Confectionary, Petcare, Food, Drinks, and Symbioscience. 

As this multinational conglomerate continues expanding, it puts money in the pockets of the family that helped build one of the world’s largest private companies.

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