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Franchising in the 2015 Forbes 400

Million Dollars

Every year Forbes publishes its list of the richest people in the United States, the Forbes 400. This year, the cutoff net worth was $1.7 billion – up $150 million from 2014. How did those with direct connections to the franchising industry fare against the others in the upper echelon of financial wealth?


#88 - Michael & Marian Ilitch & family (Little Caesars) - $5.3 billion combined

Making a 34 place jump since 2014 is the family that owns Little Caesars. The 56-year-old pizza chain has found its niche in the industry: pizza on-demand at an afford price. The pizza franchise’s latest growth can be linked to its Hot-N-Ready line of products, which are “ready when you are, every day. No need to call ahead, no need to wait and no limit.”


The Ilitch family also makes money from sports and entertainment. Their current holdings include: the Detroit Red Wings, Olympia Entertainment, Olympia Development, Blue Line Foodservice Distribution, Champion Foods, Ilitch Holdings, Inc., Uptown Entertainment, and their subsidiaries. In addition, the Ilitch parents have their own sole holdings. Michael owns the Detroit Tigers, and Marian owns MotorCity Casino Hotel. 


#171 - Peter Buck (Subway) - $3.5 billion

Dr. Peter Buck has been the silent partner in Subway since it was Pete’s Super Submarines. He is a retired nuclear physicist who gave a 17-year-old Fred DeLuca $1,000 to open a restaurant to help fund his college education.


Despite a myriad of challenges in recent years ranging from attacks on its product to the legal woes of its most famous spokesman, Subway has kept growing. The largest restaurant in the world (by unit number) now boasts over 44,000 in 111 countries.


Now the sole survivor of the partnership, DeLuca passed away from leukemia in early September, Buck has largely stayed away from the spotlight, only emerging from the shadows to make charity donations, like the one to Danbury Hospital in 2014.


#171 - Don “Bubba” Cathy & John Cathy (Chick-fil-A) - $3.5 billion each

Bubba and John took over managing the largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain based on sales from their father, the late S. Truett Cathy. Don is the senior vice president, and John is the chairman and CEO of the company. But did you know Chick-fil-A isn’t the only restaurant run by the Cathy family?


There are three other concepts under their control, all near the Metro Atlanta area. The first is Dwarf House, a full-service restaurant with 13 locations that actually pre-dates Chick-fil-A. The second is Truett’s Grill, a 1950s diner themed restaurant with three locations that combines the Chick-fila-A menu and selected items from the Dwarf Grill menu. The last, and most recently opened concept, is Truett’s Luau, opened in December 2013. It serves seafood items and other Hawaii-inspired dishes, as well as certain Chick-fil-A favorites.


#227 - Howard Schultz (Starbucks) - $2.9 billion

Technically, this is an honorable mention since Starbucks doesn’t franchise in the United States, it only has a small number of franchises in Europe.


Originally the director of retail operations and marketing, Schultz bought out the original Starbucks founders in 1987 after five years on the job, and has guided the company to over 22,000 stores in nearly 70 countries.


#246 -Edward Lampert (Sears) - $2.5 billion

Hand with Stack of Money

While the most popular brands of Sears Holdings: Sears department stores and Kmart aren’t franchises, the company does have several franchise businesses such as Sears Franchise Businesses (three home services business models: Carpet Cleaning, Air Duct Cleaning and Garage Solutions), Sears Handyman Solutions and Sears Maid Services.


Lampert makes most of his money in the hedge fund world where he owns ESL Investments Inc. However, in 2013 he added a retail challenge to his plate when he became Sears CEO. Since then, he has divided the assets of Sears Holdings into a number of different entities and spun off some assets in hopes of stabilizing the company’s bottom line in a rapidly changing marketplace.


#279 - Gary Rollins & Randall Rollins (Orkin) - $2.4 billion each

Pest control franchise Orkin is part of Rollins Inc., a conglomerate with nine other subsidiaries. Founded in 1901 by Latvian immigrant, Otto Orkin, the company was sold to Rollins Inc. in 1964. The sale is considered to be the first leveraged buyout in the United States.


Today, brothers Gary and Randall are the sole Rollins family members with shares in Orkin. They're also the majority shareholders in RPC, an oil and gas company that was spun off from Rollins Inc. in the 1980s.


The Pritzkers (Hyatt)

#129 - Karen Pritzker - $4.3 billion

#182 - Anthony Pritzker - $3.4 billion

#182 - Jay Robert “J.B.” Pritzker - $3.4 billion

#211 - Thomas Pritzker - $3 billion

#279 - Penny Pritzker - $2.4 billion

#293 - Jean “Gigi” Pritzker - $2.3 billion

#293 - John Pritzker - $2.3 billion

#327 - Daniel Pritzker - $2.1 billion

#375 - Linda Pritzker - $1.85 billion

#389 - Jennifer Pritzker $1.75 billion


Hyatt Hotels Corporation is run by the Pritzker family, which came into ownership of the original hotel in the early 1970s. Of the corporation’s 11 brands, four offer franchises: Hyatt Centric, Hyatt House, Hyatt Place and Hyatt Regency.


There are 11 billionaire Pritzkers according to Forbes, and 10 made the net worth cutoff for this year’s list. Hyatt is chaired by Thomas, the only one still involved in day-to-day operation. All of them have separate areas of interest and additional investments ranging from running other hotels (John) to movie producing (Gigi) to running a Tibetan Buddhist retreat (Linda). In addition, Anthony and J.B. run The Pritzker Group, a private equity and venture capital firm.

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