In the last two decades, single family offices started playing an increasingly important role on international financial markets. Often a stand-alone business entity, SFOs are established to exclusively manage the financial and personal needs of a single wealthy family, with the financial capital managed by the SFO being that of the family’s own wealth.
The concept of single family offices has existed for some time, dating back as far as the Industrial Revolution. In the past couple decades, there has been a significant increase in the number of SFOs worldwide, with recent estimates suggesting that single family office assets globally are now roughly around the one trillion dollars in value mark.
As SFOs have grown substantially, so have their investment strategies, leading many of them becoming more successful over time. While less known than large conglomerates, SFO are emerging forces to be reckoned with. Here is a look at some of the top performing family single offices based on their assets under management.
Gastauer Family Office (Monaco)
The Gastauer Family Office is a single-family office driven purely by the needs and preferences of the Gastauer Family. It was established in 2008 by German billionaire Michael Gastauer, the Founder and CEO of Black Banx, a group of financial institutions serving clients in 180 countries. From 2014 and 2018, Gastauer had invested US$380 million into Black Banx via the Gastauer Family Office, which in itself has a venture capital arm investing in fintech companies. In total Gastauer Family Office has US$11.4 billion in family assets under management.
Carl Bennet AB (Sweden)
Carl Bennet AB was founded in 1989 and is headquartered in Gothenburg, Sweden. It serves as the single-family office for the Bennet family that includes Carl Bennet, a Swedish billionaire that serves as chairman of the medical technology firm Getinge. and the printing company Elanders. Carl Bennet AB manages over $16.4 billion of the Bennets’ assets and is mainly active in the healthcare, medical technology, dental care, engineering and logistics industries.
Crosby Advisors (US)
Crosby Advisors is the single-family office of the Johnson family, the third-generation owners of Fidelity Investments. Founded in 2008, Crosby Advisors is presently headquartered in New Hampshire and manages over US$17.2 billion of the Johnsons’ family assets.
Pontegadea Inversiones (Spain)
Pontegadea Inversiones was founded in 2001 in La Coruna, Spain and serves as the single-family office of Amancio Ortega. Ortega is the founder of Zara and the second-richest man in Europe with a consolidated net worth of US$53.8 billion. The firm invests primarily in private equity and real estate.
The Woodbridge Company (Canada)
The SFO of the family Ray Thomson, 1st Baron Thomson of Fleet, The Woodbridge Company is most known for being the controlling shareholder of the media conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Established in 1997 in Toronto, Canada, it currently has David Binet as its president and CEO. It has nearly US$54 billion in assets under management.
Fedesa S.A.M. is the single family office of Giovanni Ferrero, the heir of the famous Italian Ferrero empire. Based out of Monaco, the firm was established in 2016 and presently manages nearly $55 billion in assets belonging to the Ferrero family.
MSD Capital (US)
MSD Capital is the single family office of Michael Dell, who founded Dell Technologies in 1984. Dell (the company) is presently one of the world’s largest computer technology companies with more than US$91 billion in revenue. Located in New York, USA, MSD Capital mainly manages Michael and his family’s capital and investments with a total of $68 billion in assets.
The Ballmer Group (US)
Founded in 2014 in Bellevue, Washington, The Ballmer Group is the chief philanthropic vehicle for Steve Ballmer and his wife Connie Ballmer. The former is the former CEO of Microsoft and the founder of USAFacts, as well as the chairman of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers. The Ballmer Group aims to improve the economic mobility of children who belong to poverty-stricken families across the US, and currently has over $85 billion in assets under management.
Bezos Expeditions (US)
The single family office of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Bezos Expeditions operates the largest e-commerce and cloud services and simultaneously is the largest internet company by revenue in the world. The SFO based in Washington also manages Bezos’s personal wealth (well over $100 billion) and investments and as a firm also invests in early-stage ventures, late-stage ventures, as well as seed-stage companies.
Walton Enterprises (US)
Established by the late Sam Walton, the founder of US superstore Walmart, Walton Enterprises manages an estimated US$224 billion in assets to date. The Arkansas-based SFO supports the business, personal, and philanthropic activities for multiple generations of the Walton family, with a particular focus on investments being made on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging.
Indeed, SFOs are an emerging presence in all industries. Its growing popularity is largely due to the increasing complexity and risk of wealth management, as well as the desire of families to achieve generational wealth while building a lasting legacy. The growth is also driven by a number of factors, including:
The business landscape has become more complex, requiring more flexible and informed investment strategies. Families have also become more complex and multi-layered, creating succession and wealth transfer challenges.
New risks have emerged, such as low-interest rates, volatile markets, and unstable geo-political conditions. Technological advancement has also been disruptive, creating and destroying wealth rapidly. Cybercrime and social media create additional risks.
Families are increasingly focused on achieving a lasting legacy through social and environmental impact, which can be seen in the sustainability efforts of companies like The Gastauer Family Office / Black Banx and the corporate social responsibility programs of The Ballmer Group / The Los Angeles Clippers. Often, this requires expertise and an active investment strategy.
In an increasingly digital world, privacy breaches can damage reputations. Growing demand for transparency and interest in the people behind brands and businesses have blurred the lines between personal and professional, leading families to place a higher priority on confidentiality.