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Franchising’s Place on the Forbes 400 & Global 2000

While we have our own list, the Top 100 Global Franchises Ranking, we have to admit no media outlet does a company list like Forbes. Forbes’ lists cover the gamut from people to companies, technology to places, and virtually everything in between. In this article, we take a look into two of its more prominent ones, the Forbes 400 and the Global 2000 to see how entities with ties to franchising stack up against the titans of the business world.


The Forbes 400

Recently, Forbes released its annual look at the richest people in the United States in its Forbes 400. Among the hedge fund owners, venture capitalists, sports teams owners, real estate magnates, and oil tycoons, there were a few franchisors. Who? Keep reading.


#122 – Michael and Marian Ilitch and family (Little Caesars): $4.1 billion

The highest-ranked franchisor on the list is the founding family of Little Caesars. Michael and Marian Ilitch started Little Caesars in 1959, devoting their entire life savings at the time to the venture. By the end of 1969, the pizza franchise had grown to 65 units. It continued its impressive growth through the 1980s when it reached the accomplishment of operating in all 50 states in 1987. Today, Little Caesars has locations in over 30 countries with well over 500 locations in the United States alone.


The Ilitch family is a stalwart of the Detroit-area having purchased the Detroit Red Wings, the city’s National Hockey League team; Olympia Entertainment, Inc., the management company presiding over a couple of local arenas; and the Detroit Tigers, the city’s Major League Baseball team. Other investments the family has undertaken include the MotorCity casino, as well as the renovation of the historic Fox Theatre and office buildings.


1993: Pizza for a Buck


#238 – Peter Buck and #239 – Fred DeLuca (Subway): $2.6 billion each

In 1965, nuclear physicist Dr. Peter Buck loaned an aspiring doctor $1,000 to open a restaurant to help fund his education. That aspiring doctor was Fred DeLuca, and the partnership between the two has led to the largest franchise in the world (per number of units).


But Subway became a franchise almost by accident. In 1974, Buck and DeLuca had opened 16 restaurants in Connecticut. However, they had set a goal of having 32 sandwich shops opened by the end of 1975. Wanting to do everything they could to reach their goal, they turned to franchising to speed up growth. Now, Subway is closing in on 43,000 restaurants in 108 countries.


An interesting fact about Subway is the original name of the restaurant was Pete’s Super Submarines as an ode to its original financier. It was switched to Subway in 1968.  Buck and DeLuca honor the origins of their business through the name of Subway’s holding company – Doctor’s Associates.


1989: My Way. Subway.


Honorable Mentions:


#220 – Edward Lampert (Sears): $2.8 billion

Most think of Sears as a shopping mall anchor store, but Sears Holdings, which includes Sears and K-Mart, does have franchising ties. The company’s Sears Auto Center is a franchise, as is Sears Home Appliance Showrooms, as well as Sears Appliance and Hardware Stores. Chairman and CEO of Sears Holdings, Edward Lampert also is founder and CEO of ESL Investments.


#304 – Howard Schultz (Starbucks): $2.1 billion

Starbucks is not a franchise…in the United States at least. The company franchises its flagship brand on “a very limited basis” and currently isn’t accepting franchise applications. At this time, Starbucks’ franchising efforts are concentrated to Europe, specifically the United Kingdom and France. For stateside investors, Starbucks Corporation does offer franchises through its Seattle’s Best Coffee brand. However, if entrepreneurs truly want a piece of the Starbucks brand, they can apply for a licensed Starbucks store.


The Global 2000

Earlier this year Forbes released its Global 2000, which is an annual look at the world’s biggest public companies. We dug into this year’s version and pulled out the companies with ties to the franchising industry.





Nestle (Licensing agreement for name with Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip)


UPS (The UPS Store)




Carrefour (French convenience store franchise chain)


Seven & I Holdings (Japanese master franchisee of 7-Eleven)


Yum Brands (KFC, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell)


Hilton Hotels & Resorts




Marriott International


Starbucks (Has European franchise operations)


Wyndham Worldwide


President Store Chain (Taiwanese master franchisee of 7-Eleven)


Tim Hortons


InterContinental Hotel Group


Again, this list simply looks at public companies. There are other massive private franchise operations (e.g. Subway) that would without much doubt be included on the ranking if all companies were eligible.

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