The world’s oldest family companies
One hundred lessons in endurance from 17 countries
Is there any institution more enduring or universal than a family
business? Professor William O’Hara, the pre-eminent expert on this
subject, posed that rhetorical question in his recent book, Centuries of Success.
He also provided his answer: “Before the multinational corporation,
there was family business. Before the Industrial Revolution, there was
family business. Before the enlightenment of Greece and the empire of
Rome, there was family business.”
Since the mid-1990s, research by O’Hara and his associate Peter
Mandel has provided the foundation for two of this magazine’s most
popular features: “America’s Oldest Family Companies” (updated most
recently in Spring 2003) and “The World’s Oldest Foreign Family
Companies” (Spring 2002). But the list that follows is the most
definitive of all. In it we’ve combined the two previous lists, added
newly discovered companies, and weeded out businesses that no longer
qualify. The result is a compilation of the world’s 100 oldest
continuously family-owned firms—all firms that can indisputably claim
to have outlasted governments, nations, cities and certainly
All of the listed companies are at least 225 years old; four
have lasted in the same family for more than a millennium. The very
oldest remains Japanese temple-builder Kongo Gumi, founded in 578.
As we’ve noted before, this compilation is hardly scientific;
it’s certainly not comprehensive or entirely accurate. It relies
instead on the best information available to us. As in the past,
readers are invited to pass along corrections or information that we
may have missed.
* Denotes new addition.
1. Kongo Gumi
Prince Shotoku brought Kongo family members to Japan from Korea
more than 1,400 years ago to build the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple,
which still stands. Over the centuries, Kongo Gumi has participated in
the construction of many famous buildings, including the 16th-century
Osaka castle. Today the family continues to build and repair religious
temples and manage general contracting from its Osaka headquarters.
Current president is Toshitaka Kongo; his 51-year-old son, Masakazu
Kongo, is waiting in the wings.
2. Hoshi Ryokan
According to legend, the god of Mount Hakusan visited a Buddhist
priest, telling him to uncover an underground hot spring in a nearby
village. The hot spring was found, and the priest requested that his
disciple, a woodcutter’s son named Garyo Saskiri, build and run a spa
on the site. His family, known as Hoshi, have run a hotel in Komatsu
ever since; the current structure houses 450 people in 100 rooms.
Zengoro Hoshi is the current patriarch.
3. Château de Goulaine
Vineyard, museum, butterfly collection/Haute Goulaine, France
The castle, owned by the Goulaine family, houses a rare butterfly
collection in addition to a museum. It hosts various functions,
including weddings. Wine is available for sale at the castle’s
*4. Fonderia Pontificia Marinelli
Bell foundry/Agnone, Italy
Founded: c. 1000
Bell foundry founded in the small central Italian town of Agnone,
high in the Appenine hills. Still uses the original wax techniques of
its founders (a wax “false bell” is overlaid with the real thing); its
bells toll in New York, Beijing, Jerusalem, South America and Korea,
among other locations. Firm has 20 employees, including five members of
the founding Marinelli family. Pasquale Marinelli is current managing
director. A museum, opened in 1997, features the work of Pasquale’s
brother, sculptor Ettore Marinelli.
5. Barone Ricasoli
Wine and olive oil/Siena, Italy
The Ricasoli barons were first given their land by the Republic of
Florence; today their Brolio Estate covers about 3,600 acres. The
family’s main focus is its wine production, although 26 acres of the
estate are used for olive cultivation.
6. Barovier & Toso
Glass making/Murano Venezia, Italy
The Barovier family produces crystalline glass, mother-of-pearl
glass and gold-free cornelian red on Murano Island, about a ten-minute
ferry ride from Venice. The Baroviers merged with the Toso family, who
were also glassmakers on Murano Island, in 1936.
7. Hotel Pilgrim Haus
The Hotel Pilgrim Haus is operated by the Andernach family in the town of Soest, about 110 miles north of Frankfurt.
8. Richard de Bas
Paper/Ambert d’Auvergne, France
Richard de Bas has a longstanding reputation for high-quality
papers, which has led to many high-profile jobs. The company has
supplied paper for limited-edition works by Braque and Picasso. It also
operates a museum.
9. Torrini Firenze
Jacopus Torrini moved to Florence from his native village of
Scarperia to forge armor for Florentine knights. His workshop later
evolved into a goldsmith, creating jewels and other precious objects.
Perhaps the family’s most valued possession is its secretive and
exclusive “Oro Nativo” manufacturing process, a method of working with
gold while retaining its most natural color.
The Antinori family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di
Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners more than 600
years ago. Marchese (or “Count”) Piero Antinori, and his three
daughters currently oversee a system of vineyards in Italy, the U.S.,
Hungary, Malta and Chile that continue to be recognized by consumers
and wine critics for their superior-quality Chiantis and other
vintages. He sold 49% to British beer brewer Whitbred in 1983, later
bought it back. The company has been housed in a Florentine palazzo
The business began in Khanià, a Venetian port on the island of
Crete. It was founded by a man locals called “Camuffi” but whose real
name was El Ham Muftì. The family has supplied boats to Mohammed the
Second, the Venetian Republic, Napoleon, the Asburg Imperial and the
Royal Italian navies. Experts refer to a Camuffo boat as “the
Stradivarius of the sea.”
12. Baronnie de Coussergues
When King Charles VIII began selling royal property in France to
pay off some of his expenses, Pierre Raymond de Sarret bought the
estate known as Coussergues. Today the vineyard produces a wide variety
of wines, including Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blancs, Viogniers, Cabernet
Francs, Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons. The Sarret family sells 1.5
million bottles a year and has won numerous gold medals for its wines.
13. Grazia Deruta
The company produces majolica, a special type of ceramic that
pre-dates the 13th century. Current CEO Ubaldo Grazia has expanded the
company’s business into the U.S. market and has produced three
exclusive designs for Henri Bendel. Grazia has also done work for other
major department stores and labels, such as Neiman-Marcus and Tiffany.
14. Fabbrica D’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A.
Bartolomeo Beretta’s world-class gun-maker is now a Hollywood
favorite; its guns appear in the James Bond series, among other films.
Beretta’s reputation for quality craftsmanship enabled the company to
wrest a $56 million U.S. armed forces contract away from competitor
Colt Industries. Beretta is the weapon of choice of other
law-enforcement agencies around the world, such as the Italian
Carabinieri, French Gendarmes and Texas Rangers. The company also has
earned distinction for its line of hunting weapons. Ugo Gussalli
Beretta is the company’s current president.
*15. William Prym GmbH & Co.
Copper, brass, haberdashery/Stolberg, Germany
Goldsmith Wilhelm Prym started a brass and copper manufacturing
business in Aachen in 1530. In 1642, the Protestant Prym family lost
its guild rights in the Catholic city of Aachen and moved to Stolberg.
In the 19th century, Prym developed the first finished products made of
brass, iron and steel and later manufactured the first metal
haberdashery products to be made mechanically. Michael Prym (born 1943)
and Axel Prym (born 1950) are among the current company managers.
16. John Brooke & Sons
Woolens/Huddersfield, United Kingdom
The company, founded by John Brooke, has provided fabrics for
British troops (Battle of Trafalgar, World War II), French troops and
Russian military personnel. In the 19th century it had 220 looms and
900 employees, down to 280 by 1969. Today it’s headed by Mark Brooke
and his brother Massimo Brooke. Mark has changed the company’s focus
within the past decade, abandoning manufacturing and instead creating
an entrepreneurial development park in the firm’s old mill buildings.
Wine/Saint Sadurní d’Anoia, Spain
Jaime Codorniu acquired the company in 1551, beginning centuries of
family ownership. In 1976 King Juan Carlos I declared the Codorniu
estate a national historic and artistic monument. The estate is visited
by 200,000 people every year and produces about 60 million bottles of
Pierre Fonjallaz began the family business when he “devoted himself
to the growing of the vine,” as the label on a bottle of Fonjallaz wine
will tell you. The company is now headed by Patrick Fonjallaz.
19. von Poschinger Manufaktur
The von Poschinger glassworks in Germany began in 1568 when Joachim
Poschinger took ownership of a glass factory near Frauenau, near the
Czech border. Today the business is divided into three areas—farming,
forestry and glass works—though glassmaking is still the focal point of
family business affairs.
20. Wachsendustrie Fulda Adam Gies
Candles, wax figures/Fulda, Germany
Maker of candles and wax figures still operated by the founding Gies family.
21. Berenberg Bank
One of the few remaining independently owned banks in Germany.
22. R. Durtnell & Sons
Construction/Kent, United Kingdom
Founder John Durtnell and his brother Brian built their first house
in 1593. It still stands and is occupied to this day. The company,
based in Kent, is extremely versatile; its projects have included the
Royal Military Academy, Chartwell House (Winston Churchill’s home) and
23. J.P. Epping of Pippsvadr
24. Eduard Meier
The company today is run by Peter Eduard Meier and his sister Brigitte. Its product line consists of about 4,500 items.
Japan’s oldest traditional confectionery has been making the sweet
delicacy known as wagashi since its founding in Kyoto by Enchu
Kurokawa. After his son Kichiemon Kurokawa cultivated relationships
with Japan’s nobility, the firm became purveyor to Japan’s Imperial
Court in the 17th and 18th centuries. The firm moved to Tokyo in 1879
and opened its first branch retail outlet in 1962. Today, under
Mitsuhiro Kurokawa, a former banker, the firm operates 79 shops with
revenues of about $150 million.
26. Tissiman & Sons Ltd.
Tailors and outfitters/Bishop’s Stortford, United Kingdom
Established as a tailor, draper and undertaker; now offers formal
and casual clothes and shoes. The original building in Bishop’s
Stortford (which dates from about 1360) is still in use.
*27. Enshu Sado School
Ceremonial tea school/Tokyo, Japan
Founded: c. 1602
The school has thrived for 400 years, imparting the traditional
Sado tea ceremony and its culture to Japanese. Founded by Lord Enshu
Kobori (1579-1647), who served as official tea instructor for Japan’s
second and third shogun and built the famous Nagoya and Osaka castles.
Current grand master Sojitsu Kobori succeeded his father in 2001 at age
44 and now oversees a staff of 20 with 30,000 practitioners, 53 local
chapters in Japan, international chapters in Holland and Korea, and a
school in Singapore. He goes to the school’s ancestor room each morning
to pay his respects to his forebears.
Takenaka has built office buildings for some of Japan’s major
corporations, such as Mitsui Bank and Nippon Life Insurance. The family
company has won many awards for design, technique and quality.
29. Mellerio dits Meller
Members of the Mellerio family from Lombardy, Italy, became
seasonal workers in France in the 16th century as purveyors of
handcrafted jewelry. The family became royal favorites when it helped
foil an attempted assassination of King Louis XIII. Located today near
the Place Vendôme in Paris, Mellerio is known for fine jewelry and as
designers and creators of the French Open tennis championship trophies.
30. Cartiera Mantovana Corp.
The Marenghi family, descendants of Riccio da Parma (a knight
famous for his battles in the early 1500s), owns the company. On July
1, 1615, the Duke of Mantua granted the family the privilege to make
and and sell paper; production began that year. The company is
currently run by Cristina Marenghi and her sons Marcofabio, Alberto and
31. Zildjian Cymbal Co.
Founded in Constantinople by an alchemist named Avedis I, who
discovered an extremely musical metal alloy to create powerful, durable
cymbals. The sultan named him “Zildjian,” Armenian for “cymbalsmith.”
The family arrived in the U.S. in 1909, in time for Avedis Zildjian III
to establish ties with the hot new jazz drummers of the day. His son
Armand (1921-2002) created modern factory. Today his daughters Craigie
(CEO) and Debbie (VP/human resources) run the company, the first women
chiefs in the firm’s long history.
Soy sauce/Noda, Japan
On the run after her husband’s military defeat and death at the
Osaka castle in the 16th century, widow Shige Maki escaped to Noda,
Japan, and established a small business making what was to become soy
sauce. The family business became a unified company in 1917 when eight
branches of the Mogi family merged their companies together. The
company has grown into the world’s largest producer of soy sauce
33. Sumitomo Corp.
Masatomo Sumitomo opened a medicine and book shop in Kyoto in the
17th century. As time went on, various members of the family added to
the conglomerate, making it what it is today. Sumitomo Group’s current
core consists of 20 companies focusing on banking, shipbuilding,
mining, glass production, electronics, cement, lumber and chemicals.
This charming hotel in Tällberg is currently run by members of the
19th through 21st generations of the Akerblads family. The property has
been remodeled and expanded over the years but still conveys a
17th-century atmosphere while offering excellent cuisine and warm
35. Tuttle Farm
Founder John Tuttle left England in 1635, survived a shipwreck off
the Maine coast and arrived in Dover with his wife and four-year-old
daughter. His 240-acre farm grows vegetables and strawberries and
operates retail shop on site. Twelfth-generation member Evan Hourihan,
who is in his 20s, has expressed interest in the family farm.
The Gekkeikan brewery was established by Jiemon Okura in the town
of Fushimi. The quality of its sake has led to the company’s
appointment as the official supplier of the Japanese Imperial
household. Currently, the business makes more than 170 different
products and exports to more than 60 countries.
37. Shirley Plantation
Historical site/Charles City, Va.
Virginia’s oldest plantation was settled in 1613 on the James River
between Richmond and Williamsburg (near the present Charles City) by
Sir Thomas West. Operated as a tobacco and grain farm, 1613-1952.
Acquired in 1638 by Edward Hill and managed by his descendants ever
since. His great-granddaughter Elizabeth Hill married John Carter in
1723; site has been owned since then by their descendants. Under
tenth-generation owner Charles Hill Carter Jr. and his wife, it was
converted to a tourist attraction in 1952; since 1998, it has hosted
weddings and corporate events as well under the Carters’ children.
38. Hugel et Fils
The Hugel family’s roots in the war-torn Alsace-Lorraine region of
France reach back to the 15th century. In 1639 the family began to make
wine in the town of Riquewihr. Today its vintages have an outstanding
international reputation and are exported to more than 100 countries.
39. James Lock & Co.
Hatters/London, United Kingdom
The company was founded by James Lock and now makes men’s and women’s hats. One of its most recognized creations is the bowler.
40. Barker’s Farm
Dairy and apples/North Andover, Mass.
Family farm now run the Barker family. Visitors can pick produce.
41. G.C. Fox & Co.
Shipping agent/Falmouth, United Kingdom
Shipping agent (now travel agency as well) founded by George Croker Fox.
42. R.H. Levey & Son
Funeral services/Stansted Mountfitchet, United Kingdom
43. William Adams & Sons
Potters/Stoke-on-Trent, United Kingdom
The family has been producing pottery since at least 1448. In 1650,
brothers William and Thomas established their pottery business in
Burslem, about 35 miles south of Liverpool. It’s currently run by
members of the 11th and 12th generations.
44. Ulefos Jernvaerk
Metals, milling, forestry/Telemark, Norway
On Aug, 8, 1657, King Fredrik III gave a royal decree allowing the
Cappelen family to begin the company’s operations. The family has
become involved in many different businesses over the years: owning
ships, trading and producing stoves and manhole covers. The company is
currently Norway’s market leader in manhole covers, which accounts for
70% of the family’s business.
45. Van Eeghen
Trading company/Amsterdam, Netherlands
Christiaen Van Eeghen established himself circa 1633 in Aardenburg
(in the present Flanders, Belgium) as a cloth merchant. His son Jacob
van Eeghen founded Van Eeghen & Co. in 1662 in Amsterdam, where the
business remains. Subsequent generations launched sailing ships to
spread their markets along historic spice routes to British colonies
and the Far East. Today Van Eeghen continues its involvement with world
trade but specializes in food products.
46. Schwarze & Schlichte
Jan Swarte (the surname was later changed to Schwarze) began the
family business in Westphalia, where he was a farmer and a distiller.
Four generations later, Hermann Josef Schwarze bought a house at
Herrenstrasse, where the family still lives. This house serves as the
company’s headquarters. The Schwarze Group acquired the Schlichte
brands in the 1990s.
*47. The Seaside Inn and Cottages
At the request of Fernando Gorges, agent for King Charles II, John
Gooch was asked to reside on this oceanfront peninsula at the mouth of
the Kennebunk River to ferry travelers across in the 1640s. He provided
rooms and operated a tavern for travelers who stayed in the area. The
family’s first dated record is Gooch’s will, dated 1667. The property
was passed down for generations to the first-born son. Four generations
ago the Gooches had only daughters, and the name “Severance” was
introduced. The current 12th-generation innkeeper, Patricia
Mason—daughter of Mike and Sandy Severance—now operates the inn with
her husband, Ken.
48. Early’s of Witney
Blankets/Witney, United Kingdom
Richard Early established a blanket factory in Witney in 1669,
mostly contracting to spinners who worked in their homes. Family’s
first weaver was his son Thomas. Brian Crawfford of the eighth
generation (his mother was an Early) was with the firm from 1949 to
49. C. Hoare & Co.
Banking/London, United Kingdom
The Hoare bank in London is the last survivor of the English
private deposit banks that were originally established in the 17th and
18th centuries. The bank was founded by Richard Hoare and is now run by
members of the tenth and 11th generations. The family’s pride in close
customer relationships and meticulous service has attracted famous
customers, including Samuel Pepys, Queen Charlotte, furniture makers
Thomas Chippendale & Son, Lord Byron, Jane Austen and various prime
*50. Firmin & Sons Ltd.
Uniforms and insignia/Birmingham, United Kingdom
Britain’s leading manufacturer of military and civil regalia
(uniforms, badges, buttons, medals, swords, etc.) has served the
British monarchy since about 1750. Past customers include Lord Nelson
and his men at the Battle of Trafalgar, the Duke of Wellington at the
Battle of Waterloo and the armies of both North and South in the U.S.
51. Viellard Migeon & Cie.
Iron making/Forges de Morvillars, France
The business was started by an ironmaster named Nicolas Viellard
and met with significant success after the French Revolution. During
this time the business adopted a strategy of cultivating family
alliances to consolidate the iron works in Belfort, about 35 miles
north of Toulouse. It’s now one of the world’s leading makers of
52. Miller Farm
Agriculture, timber/Frederica, Del.
The farm has remained in the Miller family’s hands through nine
generations. Its tillable land is currently leased to a local farmer.
53. Gradis Corp.
Wine trading/Bordeaux, France
The Gradis family, Jewish refugees from Portugal, settled in
Bordeaux in the late 1500s. Diego Gradis later began the family wine
trading business. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), family ships
were used to re-supply troops in Canada. During World War I, the French
government commissioned the family to ensure the supply of sugar for
France. Today, the family has returned to its roots in wine trading.
54. Toye, Kenning & Spencer
Weavers/London, United Kingdom
Toye, Kenning & Spencer holds a royal warrant and over the
years has produced much of the U.K.’s regalia, medals and uniforms.
Brian Toye is the current chairman.
The Yamamotoyama family began producing premium teas in Japan more
than three centuries ago. The company is now the oldest family-owned
tea business in the world.
56. Delamare et Cie.
Packaging materials/Criquebeuf-sur-Seine, France
The company was founded by André Delamare and is now run by
Franéois Delamare. Family members initially worked with wood, making
carts and stagecoaches. Eventually they expanded into plastics and
adhesives in the packaging market. The family has earned two top
packaging awards, in 1986 and 1988. Today it conducts research on
recycling and transformation of industrial waste.
*57. Nolet Distillery (Ketel One Vodka)
Since its founding by Joannes Nolet (1638-1702), the Nolet family’s
distillery in Schiedam has been passed from father to son, each
zealously guarding the family’s secret vodka formula. The company name
refers to the family’s first distilling kettle. Current proprietor
Carolus Nolet, 63, maintains the family tradition of distillation by
58. Folkes Group
Real estate and engineering/Lye, United Kingdom
The company began by making chain mail and swords and is now the
oldest firm with a current stock market listing in the United Kingdom.
In addition to making real estate investments, the company produces
specialized cargo handling equipment, large crankshafts, roofing
materials and other products.
59. Berry Brothers & Rudd Ltd.
Wine merchants/London, United Kingdom
Family of coffee, tea and spice merchants gravitated to wines and
spirits later. They earned the right to supply the British royal family
in 1760 and continue to do so—they currently hold royal warrants to the
Queen and the Prince of Wales. The family operates out of the same shop
where they began three centuries ago.
60. Shepherd Neame
Brewer/Faversham, United Kingdom
Britain’s oldest brewer, founded by Capt. Richard Marsh, who was
the mayor of Faversham, in Kent. Samuel Shepherd and his sons Julius
and John eventually bought the business. When Percy Beale Neame joined
the partnership in 1864, the company’s beer began to gain widespread
renown. The Neame family has remained in control ever since.
61. Allandale Farm
Fruit, produce, flowers/Brookline, Mass.
Last working farm within Boston-Brookline limits; only one of six
farms left within Route 128 Beltway. Also operates summer outdoor
program for children.
*62. Farina Gegenüber
The world’s oldest perfume company was launched in Cologne by
Johann Maria Farina (1685-1766), who made his city famous by calling
his new fragrance Eau de Cologne. His namesake and eighth-generation
descendant, Johann Maria Farina, runs the firm today.
63. William Dalton & Sons
Pest control/United Kingdom
64. Cooke Farm
Founded 1720 or earlier, once a thriving 550-acre dairy operation.
Tenth-generation proprietor George Cooke stopped milking cows in 1995,
sold off most acreage and developed an industrial park. The business is
now a general contractor and leases its remaining land to a tenant
65. Nourse Family Farm
Farm established in 1722 by the grandchildren of Rebecca Nurse,
hanged for witchcraft in Salem, Mass., in 1692. The family fled Salem
and in 1722 purchased land on the frontier in Westborough, where
descendants have farmed the 140-acre spread for more than 280 years.
Jonathan Nourse, proprietor since 1971, has expanded into prepared
foods (jams, jellies, pies, etc.).
66. Tissages Denantes
Even with more than 400 employees, the company preserves its
traditions, which began in the 18th-century French trade fairs. Michel
Denantes and his wife, Barbe, established a reputation for fine cloth
at these fairs.
67. Amarelli Fabbrica de Liquirizia
Licorice/Rossano Scalo, Italy
The family’s roots in Italy’s southern Calabria region pre-date the
year 1000. Fortunato Amarelli created the Amarelli company with his son
in Rossano in 1731, harvesting licorice to sweeten his land when it lay
fallow. In 1987 the company won the gold medal from the Italian
Chemical Company for combining traditional craftsmanship with modern
68. Fratelli Piacenza Corp.
Pietro Francesco Piacenza created the first woolen mill in Pollone,
a small town nestled at the foot of the Alps, near the Swiss and French
borders. The family prides itself on its strict quality standards—its
method of producing wool takes up to six times longer than some more
modern techniques. The company’s president today is Riccardo Piacenza.
69. Taittinger Champagne
The business was begun by Jacques Fourneaux. After World War I, the
Taittinger family merged with Fourneaux-Forest (as the company was
known at the time). The Taittingers ultimately took control of the
operation. Claude Taittinger runs the business today.
70. William Clark & Sons
Linen/Upperlands, Northern Ireland, U.K.
The family has operated for more than 250 years as a manufacturer
of linens in Northern Ireland. Their international reputation for
quality and value has made Irish linen perhaps more highly prized than
any other cloth. Founded by Jackson Clark, the company was named for
his great-great-grandson William; it’s now run by Bobby and Stephen
Clark of the ninth generation.
71. Lyman Orchards
The 1,100-acre farm today offers an ambitious variety of food
products (cider, apple pies, etc.), events (golf tournaments,
fund-raisers) and tours.
72. John Whitley Farm
Oldest farm in North Carolina. Family mementos include the original
deed with wax seal of the king of England and a note from Theodore
Roosevelt thanking the Whitleys for lending him their binoculars. The
land is now leased for tobacco, corn, wheat, peanuts, soybeans.
Agriculture, orchards/Koue Bokkeveld, Cape Town, South Africa
The farm was founded by Isaak Wilhelm Van der Merwe and is now run
by two brothers, Frans and Nicolaas Van der Merwe. The family also has
built a literary legacy through poet Isaac Wilhelmus Van der Merwe,
known nationally as “Boerneef,” and current author Carl Van der Merwe
(eighth generation). The family farm was declared a national monument
74. Aubanel Publishing Co.
The business was started by Antoine Aubanel in Avignon. Rome
awarded Antoine the title of “master printer” in 1756, and in 1780 he
was appointed the official printer to the Pope, an honor that was to be
handed down from generation to generation. The family refused to
publish Napoleon Bonaparte’s book Le Souper De Beaucaire.
75. Fonderia Daciano Colbachini & Figli
Bell maker/Padua, Italy
The foundry was established by Giuseppe Colbachini when he joined
with his three brothers to make bells. The Colbachini family’s talents
earned them the prestigious title of ‰Pontifical Foundry” on Jan. 17,
1898. To this day, Fonderia Daciano Colbachini & Figli is the only
maker of bells in the world that is able to stamp its products with the
Papal coat of arms. The business is currently directed by Giovanni
76. J.D. Neuhaus Hebezeuge
Hoist manufacturers/Witten-Heven, Germany
Johann Diederich Neuhaus began the business when he joined the
Factory Register in Germany as a manufacturer. The company started by
producing wooden jacks, which were in high demand by carters who would
constantly break their wheels on the rough terrain of 18th-century
roads. In 1952 the company invented the air hoist, which was much safer
than the electrical hoists produced at the time. Today, the company’s
products are sold in 90 countries. One product, the Gorilla V, is
reportedly the world’s most powerful air hoist: It can lift 250 tons.
Johann Diederich Neuhaus is the current chairman.
77. Villeroy & Boch
The family business began in Lorraine when François Boch, then an
iron founder, started making ceramic tableware. In 1791, Nicolas
Villeroy established a nearby ceramic factory. In 1836, these two
families merged their factories to form Villeroy & Boch.
78. Zenith Pipe Company
Tobacco pipes/Gouda, Netherlands
Aart van der Want currently runs the company.
79. Parlange Plantation
Farm/New Roads, La.
One of the state’s oldest plantations; descendants of first owner
Marquis Vincent de Ternant still live there. Originally grew indigo and
cotton; now sugarcane, soybeans, corn and Brahmin cattle. The house,
open for tours, contains original Louis XIV- and Louis XV-style
furnishings and French objects handed down through generations. A
basement museum displays antiques: blacksmith tools, cotton scales,
sugar kettles (formerly used to boil indigo beans down to a dye),
candle molds, and an 1842 inventory of the estate, which lists
livestock by name and ranks the value of each slave by age and ability.
80. Marie Brizard & Roger International
The company traces its origins to 18th-century Bordeaux, where, as
legend has it, Marie Brizard saved a sailor from death. To show his
gratitude, the sailor told Marie about an elixir that supposedly could
cure every type of ill. Marie joined with her nephew Jean-Baptiste
Roger to start the family company by producing the “elixir” known as
anisette. The business is still centered in Bordeaux and is currently
run by Jean-Baptiste Roger. Today the company’s products can be found
in 130 countries.
81. Joseph Drouhin
Parts of the family’s wine cellars date to the 13th century. One
portion of their cellar was built in the 16th century for the king of
France. The family’s cellars have been classified as historical
treasures. Today the estate covers more than 162 acres. Family members
Robert, Philippe, Véronique, Françoise and Frédéric currently run the
*82. Franz Haniel
Family-owned conglomerate based in Duisburg controls Gehe, Europe’s
biggest drug wholesaler, and Lloyd Chemists, a household name in
Britain. It also has large stakes in retailers, mail-order houses,
steel recycling, concrete blocks and disaster recovery services. Sales
exceeded $25 billion in 2002. The company was founded by Jan Willem
Noot and later renamed for his grandson Franz Haniel. About 520 Haniel
family members are shareholders (although an unwritten rule precludes
them from working there full-time). Franz Haniel, 49, is chairman of
the firm’s supervisory board.
*83. Riedel Glas GmbH
Johann Christoph Riedel (1678-1744) journeyed throughout Europe
trading glass. His son Johann Carl Riedel (1701-1781), a guilder and
glasscutter, operated his own workshop. Grandson Johann Leopold Riedel
(1726-1800) founded glass factory in 1756, benefited from the need to
rebuild windowpanes after the Seven Year War (1756-1763) between
Austrians and Prussians. The company is now known for making
wineglasses. Georg Riedel of the tenth generation is the president.
Eleventh-generation member Maximilian Riedel (born 1977) is in charge
of the North American market; Laetizia Riedel (born 1974), a lawyer,
plans to become the firm’s legal adviser.
84. Lanificio Conte S.p.A.
The business was started when Antonio Di Giovan Battista bought a
woolen mill in 1757. The current president is Gemma Boniver Conte. The
firm has cultivated a reputation for fine women’s clothing.
85. Jose Cuervo
José Antonio de Cuervo acquired a land grant from the king of Spain
in 1758. In 1795, José Maria Guadalupe Cuervo was granted the first
license from the king to produce tequila. The family business is now
Mexico’s oldest existing company. In Spanish, Cuervo means “crow,” the
symbol the firm uses to identify its products.
86. Waterford Wedgwood
Crystal, china, & cookware/Dublin, Ireland
Waterford Wedgwood is perhaps the world’s leading maker of luxury
crystal, china, ceramics and cookware. The company’s most visible
product is the large crystal ball lowered every New Year’s Eve in New
York’s Times Square. Chairman Tony O’Reilly and his brother-in-law
control about 27%.
87. Creed Perfume
The business was started in the U.K. in 1760 when James Creed
received an appointment from King George III to make fragrances. The
company moved its operations from London to Paris in 1854. Prince
Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, both commissioned the
company to make scents for them. Today the company has 238 fragrances
in its line and is run by Olivier Creed.
Foundry/Villers-St. Paul, France
Antoine Griset established the family’s first metal foundry in
Paris in 1760. The factory was moved to Rue Oberkampf in Paris in 1825.
Here the platinum bar used by the International Bureau of Weights and
Measures to denote the “standard meter” was first produced.
89. Hacienda Los Lingues
Ranch/San Fernando, Chile
Don Melchor Jufré del Águila, mayor of Santiago, received an
18th-century gift from the king of Spain: the Angostura Estate, located
in Chile’s Central Valley 78 miles south of Santiago. He passed the
land on to his daughter, Doña Ana María del Águila, and its 4,000
hectares became the home of a five-star hotel that can accommodate 37
guests. It’s also the home of one of the most prestigious horse stables
in the Americas: the Aculeo Stable, which features horses brought to
Spain by the Moors in 711 and later brought to the New World by the
Spanish Conquistadors. Germán Claro Lira currently owns the land.
Writing instruments/Stein, Germany
The company was founded in Stein, Germany (near Nuremberg), when
Kaspar Faber, a carpenter, produced his own pencils. Count Anton
Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell currently manages the company, which
offers about 2,000 products with 2002 sales of $263 million.
91. Möller Group
Metal products/Bielefeld, Germany
The family can be traced back to 1575. The Möllers began working
with copper in 1762. Successive generations expanded the family’s focus
to include a tannery and leather goods factory (1827), an engineering
division (1863) and a plastics division (1936). Dr. Peter von Möller,
who represents the seventh generation, currently runs the company.
92. Bachman Funeral Home
Johannes Bachman, a Swiss Mennonite, began as cabinetmaker in
Lancaster County, Pa., and evolved into coffins and funerals. His
original business ledger (in German), dated April 1769, has been passed
to the present eighth generation. John D. Bachman is the current
Keys & key cutting machines/Vittorio Veneto, Italy
Camillo Bianchi started the business when he invented the
key-cutting service. The company serves more than 130,000 key-cutting
centers, locksmiths and manufacturers in the security and automotive
94. Osborne y Compania
Brandy and sherry/Cadiz, Spain
The business was started by an Englishman, Thomas Osborne Mann, who
in the late 1700s owned an export agency in Cadiz. He enjoyed early
success through his friendship with a British consul, who allowed him
to store his wines in the consulate’s personal cellar. Today the
company has about 700 employees and is headed by Tomas and Ignacio
95. Editions Henry Lemoine
Music publishing/Paris, France
The family business was begun by Antoine-Marcel Lemoine in Paris. In 1810 he published the Messe Solennelle,
composed for the coronation of Napoleon I. The company also published
the works of Chopin, Berlioz, Donizetti, Halevy, Franck, Gounod,
Messiaen and Piazzolla. Pierre Lemoine currently heads the company.
96. Stuart Land Co. of Virginia
Beef cattle operation still functioning. Henry Smith II started
Clifton Farm. When his great-granddaughter Mary Taylor Carter married
William Alexander Stuart, she brought a dowry of 80,000 acres, which
Stuart added to his own large land holding. Current proprietor William
(Zan) Stuart is eighth generation from founder; he has no children in
the business, but his grandchildren may succeed him.
97. JB Fernandes & Sons
Tools & ironwares/Lisbon, Portugal
In 1778 an earthquake ruined much of Lisbon, then one of Europe’s
most brilliant capitals. This disaster prompted Ignacio Jose Fernandes
to open a business selling tools and iron goods to help rebuild the
city. Today the firm is an industry leader in Portugal.
98. St. John Milling Co.
Milling, farm products/Watauga, Tenn.
Stone mason Jeremiah Dungan built the original foundation for the
mill and stone manor (still standing) and ran the mill with his
children Jeremiah and Mary D. Hendrix. The mill passed to his son
Jeremiah’s daughter Mary and her husband, John Houston (brother of
frontier hero Sam Houston), and then to their sons John Jr. and William
Houston. They were succeeded in 1866 by George W. St. John (1837-1904),
great-nephew of Jeremiah Dungan. His son James St. John (1874-1956)
inherited the mill from his father in 1904. His son George St. John, an
electrical engineer, succeeded him and converted the farm’s power
source from water to electricity. Today the mill is owned by George’s
daughter and son-in-law, Elizabeth and Ron Dawson. The operation
changed from general feed and milling to a feed and seed store. Owing
to shifting boundaries, the company has paid taxes in three different
states: North Carolina, Tennessee and the short-lived “State of
99. Ditta Bortolo Nardini
Distillery/Bassano del Grappa, Italy
Bortolo Nardini founded the distillery when he bought an inn next
to the famous Bassano Bridge, about 45 miles northwest of Venice. The
inn became known as the “Grapperia Nardini.” Grape pomace acquavite
(known as grappa) had been made by peasants living in the area before
the Nardinis arrived. Nardini introduced technology to the process of
distilling the seeds, skins and stems left at the end of the winemaking
process, making it more modern and scientific.
100. Laird & Co.
Brandy Distiller/Scobeyville, N.J.
America’s first large-scale distiller produces AppleJack brandy,
vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, tequila, wines, etc. Robert Laird,
Revolutionary War soldier, first distilled AppleJack in 1780 to serve
at inn, provided brandy to George Washington.
William T. O’Hara (email@example.com) is founder and executive director of Bryant College’s Institute for Family Enterprise in Smithfield, R.I.. Peter Mandel is his associate. Bryant MBA candidate John Gunasti provided research support.