4 billionaire sisters with stakes in the world's largest food company all tumbled from the list of the richest Americans in the last year
- On October 2, Forbes released the "Forbes 400," the company's annual ranking of the wealthiest Americans.
- Inclusion on the list requires a minimum net worth of $2.1 billion; those whose fortunes dip below that amount will fall off the list.
- Among the 27 billionaires who were present on the list in 2018 and missing this year were the four daughters of the late W. Duncan MacMillan, an heir of Cargill founder W.W. Cargill.
- The four women owe their fortunes to Cargill, the largest food company in the world.
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Forbes recently released its 2019 ranking of the wealthiest Americans. The annual list tracks the 400 richest people in the country by net worth. While their collective wealth hit a record-breaking $2.96 trillion (a 2.2% increase from 2018), 27 billionaires dropped off the list this year.
Five of those drop-offs were due to deaths (including David Koch, the former vice president of Koch Industries, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen), but the remaining 22 fell off the list because they saw their net worths drop below $2.1 billion, the minimum net worth to qualify for inclusion. And four of the billionaires who saw their fortunes fall came from one company: Cargill.
Forbes' Will Yakowicz and Jennifer Wang reported that Alexandra Daitch, Sarah MacMillan, Lucy Stitzer, and Katherine Tanner are among the billionaires who fell off the list of wealthiest Americans in 2019. Each currently has a net worth of $1.7 billion - down from the $2.1 billion each in 2018.
The four women are sisters, the daughters of W. Duncan MacMillan, who was a Cargill board member for three decades and who died in 2006 as the 216th-richest man in America, Forbes previously reported.
MacMillan was the great-grandson of W.W. Cargill, who founded Cargill in 1865 at the tail-end of the Civil War and grew a single grain warehouse in Iowa to what it is today: the largest privately-owned company in America.
A family of highly secretive billionaires
In 2014, Forbes reported that MacMillan's four daughters had emerged as new billionaires, joining six other Cargill descendants who were already billionaires.
But they weren't at all interested in being in the public eye. "They want to draw the curtain down," Cargill CEO David MacLennan told Forbes in 2014. "A lot of rich people want to be on TV, want you to know who they are and that they own this and that. Not these people."
And in 2015, Business Insider's Drake Baer reported that the "secretive" Cargill family had a total of 14 billionaires, which at the time was more than any other family in the world.
Extreme weather and the trade war are taking a toll on the company - and the billionaires it's minted
Cargill has seen tougher times in recent years.
In July, Cargill reported a 41% slump in its adjusted quarterly profit for Q4 - $476 million in the quarter ending May 31, compared with the $809 million it saw in the same time period a year earlier. Neil Hume of the Financial Times reported that this sharp drop was thanks to a combination of "extreme weather events, the spread of a deadly pig virus, and the fallout from the US-China trade spat."
In September, soon after Cargill said its earnings had increased 3% (to $908 million) in the first fiscal quarter, The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Bunge reported that Cargill was dealing with "continued problems arising from springtime flooding," including rising water levels slowing the company's barge business and preventing ship loading at its port in New Orleans. The same report noted the impact of the ongoing US-China trade dispute, specifically causing soybean exports to slow and challenging farmers in the US; Bunge wrote that "trade tensions also held down crop prices, limiting farmers' willingness to make advance sales through Cargill."
The outbreak of a fatal and incurable hog disease called African swine flu also negatively impacted Cargill, causing them to shutter animal-feed mills in China earlier in 2019 due to reduced demand, Reuters reported.
Despite the company's ongoing issues, two of the 14 billionaire Cargill heirs remained among the top 400 wealthiest Americans this year: Austen Cargill, II. and James Cargill, II., each with a net worth of $3.6 billion, who tied at No. 225.
The company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider regarding the sisters' net worths or the company's slump in Q4 adjusted quarterly profit.