cover image Founding Fortunes

Founding Fortunes

Michael Patrick Allen. Dutton Books, $22.5 (438pp) ISBN 978-0-525-24569-8

The subjects of the 160 brief biographies listed in a directory of ""major corporate-rich families'' included in this well-researched report on America's richest capitalist families ``were worth at least $200 million each in 1986,'' according to the author, a Washington State University sociology professor. Although most of them remain invisible to the public, and the exact amount of their fortunesearned or inheritedis kept secret, Allen notes the pervasive influence they exert on economic, social and political affairs at both local and national levels through financial contributions and media ownership. A large proportion of our wealthiest citizens owe their affluence to family corporations whose fortune-building and preservation strategies are discussed here in detail. Family-owned holding companies, trusts, philanthropic foundations and gifts are among tax dodges successfully practiced by kinship-bound dynasties that have retained their assets despite tax reforms enacted since the 1930s, Allen shows. Wealth and social status are also often exchanged between the rich and socially elite through intermarriage. Among the more well-known families discussed are: Annenberg, Triangle Publications; Bloch, H. & R. Block, tax-preparation specialists; Hunt, Hunt Oil; Ordinary, Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing; and Wrigley, the gum people. (January 6)