Some big companies: 1 family holds sway for generations

Ford Motor Co. has been run by the Ford family for four generations. Founder Henry Ford’s great-grandson, William Clay Ford Jr. (above), is executive chairman and previously was CEO.

It’s hard to keep control of a large company, but a few families have maintained ownership of their companies for generations — in a few cases, more than a century.

Earlier this month, Wal-Mart Stores handed its chairmanship to Greg Penner, the grandson-in-law of company founder Sam Walton, marking a third generation in the family to hold that job since the first Wal-Mart opened in 1962.

Here are some more of the best-known and longest-running family-run or family-controlled public companies:

Ford Motor Co. has been run by the Ford family for four generations. Henry Ford started the automaker in 1903, and his great-grandson, William Clay Ford Jr., is now executive chairman and previously served as CEO. Edsel Ford II, another great-grandson, is a board member. The company is controlled by a family trust run by William, Edsel and two other relatives. The trust owns almost all of the Class B stock, which has more voting power than Class A stock. A fifth-generation of Fords is now rising through the company ranks.

Nordstrom Inc. was co-founded in 1901 by John W. Nordstrom. His family has run the department store operator for four generations with multiple family members often sharing power. At one point, Nordstrom had four co-chairmen: three Nordstroms and an in-law. Blake Nordstrom has been president of the company since 2000, and last month the company said his brothers Erik and Peter Nordstrom would become his co-presidents. The three are great-grandsons of the founder.

Meat processor Tyson Foods Inc. was founded by John W. Tyson in 1935. Son Donald later ran the company, and another son, Randal, was an executive. Members of the Tyson family hold about 70 percent of the voting power in Tyson Foods. John Tyson, the founder’s grandson, has been chairman of the company since 1998. Randal Tyson’s widow, Barbara, is also a director.

Adolph Ochs bought the New York Times in 1896 and relatives and descendants, including son-in-law Arthur Hays Sulzberger, grandson Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, and great-grandson and current chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., have run the company since then. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. became the publisher of the Times in 1992 and chairman in 1997, and son Arthur Gregg Sulzberger was named senior editor for strategy in 2014. The Ochs family trust owns about 90 percent of New York Times Co.’s Class B stock, which gives it the power to choose 70 percent of the board and decide matters where common shareholders can’t vote.

Estee Lauder Cos. was founded by Estee and Joseph Lauder in 1946, and their family controls the skin-care and cosmetics maker with almost 90 percent of voting power.

Joseph and Estee Lauder’s sons Leonard and Ronald are board members, and Leonard Lauder’s late wife, Evelyn, was also an executive with the company. Leonard remains chairman emeritus of the company, and William Lauder, son of Leonard and Evelyn, is now its chairman.