10 Big Family Business Stocks That Beat the Market

Wall Street always looks for an edge when deciding what stocks to recommend. One of the most unusual angles that investors have likely never fully considered is family-owned companies. An outstanding and fascinating report from Credit Suisse takes an in-depth look at family-owned companies around the world. We have focused on the 10 top companies here in the United States.

The definition of a family-owned company may surprise people, but given the huge stock floats of large American corporations, the Credit Suisse benchmarks make sense. The analyst cites for inclusion into their global family-owned business database that the companies must be at least $1 billion in market capitalization and have a family own at least 20% of shares outstanding.

The Credit Suisse report points out that about one-third of family-owned businesses last into the second generation of ownership, 12% to a third generation and then the number shrinks to just 3% to a fourth generation.

One very interesting data point is that family businesses on many metrics tend to outperform. While they often trade at a slight premium to the index benchmarks of 12% on an EV/EBITDA ratio, which is made up of two parts. The EV part stands for “enterprise value” and is calculated by adding a company’s market capitalization, debt, minority interest and preferred equity. They also trade at 5% premium on a price-to-book ratio.

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While the premiums may seem large to some, the Credit Suisse team points out that, on average, family-owned businesses have a return on equity that is 4.3% higher than the benchmark and a cash flow return on investment that is over 9% higher. These figures certainly help to justify the premiums.

It also is interesting to note that U.S. family-owned businesses performed extremely well across the board compared with their foreign counterparts in almost every category, from return on equity to net debt as a percentage of equity and net debt to EBITDA.

Here are the 10 top U.S. family-owned businesses. Remember, these companies have a market cap larger than $1 billion and a family-owned shareholding of at least 20% of shares outstanding.

1. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT) leads of the list and is probably no surprise to our readers. Started as what was called a five-and-dime by Sam Walton in 1962, the company revolutionized retail as consumers have come to know it. The Walton family’s stake in Wal-Mart has risen to about 50% as a result of share buyback programs, and the family is satisfied to control the company’s biggest stake without actually owning enough stock to give them actual control. The shares closed most recently at $73.06.

2. Oracle Corp. (NASDAQ: ORCL) is a technology company that is on the Credit Suisse top 10. Yahoo reports that co-founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison owns a staggering 1,113,634,580 shares of the software giant. Shares closed Wednesday at $39.77.

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3. Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) is another mega-cap technology stock with over 20% family ownership. Google was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were Ph.D. students at Stanford University. Together they own about 14% of its shares but control 56% of the stockholder voting power through supervoting stock. Shares closed on Wednesday at $541.70.

4. Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) is another huge tech stock on the list. The social media giant’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is reported to own approximately 29.3% of Facebook’s Class A shares. Shares closed trading at $85.65.

5. Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK-A) is of course the investment vehicle for the renowned Warren Buffett. The Oracle of Omaha was reported to currently own 350,000 Class A shares of Berkshire Hathaway and 2,050,640 Class B shares. The Class A shares are worth tens of billions of dollars, while the Class B shares were valued at $285,859,216.00. Much of his wealth has already been donated to charities. The A shares closed Wednesday at $206,186.

6. Kinder Morgan Inc. (NYSE: KMI) was a trailblazer in the energy pipeline business. The founder of the company, Houston legend Richard Kinder, was reported by Yahoo Finance to own 233,812,353 shares of the company stock and remains the largest individual shareholder. The stock closed Wednesday at $37.30.

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7. Nike Inc. (NYSE: NKE) was the brainchild of Phil Knight, who started the company out of the back of his car and recently announced he was stepping down from the shoe and apparel giant. Knight owns more than 134 million shares of Nike stock, primarily the powerful Class A shares, which elect 75% of the company’s board of directors. He also owns a handful of Class B shares, which trade on the New York Stock Exchange. Nike shares close on Wednesday at $109.27.

8. McKesson Corp. (NYSE: MCK) is a medical supply services and drug wholesale company and is one of the oldest continually operating businesses in the United States, founded in 1833. It comes in on the Credit Suisse in the top 10, but data on how much the McKesson family actually owns was unavailable. The shares closed Wednesday at $224.52.

9. Phillips 66 (NYSE: PSX) is an oil and gas company that is on board the top 10 U.S. family-owned companies. Founded by L.E. Phillips and Frank Phillips in 1917, the company has had a long history in the energy industry. While the company also made the Credit Suisse list, information on the Phillips family holdings of the stock was unavailable. Shares closed on Wednesday at $78.50.

10. Franklin Resources Inc. (NYSE: BEN) is a top financial services company, known for the large family of mutual funds the company runs. It was founded in 1947 in New York by Rupert H. Johnson Sr., who ran a successful retail brokerage firm from an office on Wall Street. He named the company for U.S. founding father Benjamin Franklin because he epitomized the ideals of frugality and prudence when it came to saving and investing. The Johnson family continues to run the firm, with Charles Johnson holding a massive 97,536,766 shares of the stock. Other family members also hold large positions. The stock closed on Wednesday at $47.97.

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The fact that so many of these top companies are still at least 20% owned by the founding families is a testament to the foresight, ingenuity and plain hard work by the founders. American industry has long been a model for the world, and history seems to show that owning stocks that are family owned and held seems to be a pretty good idea.

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