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Father-son power pyramids

By Laurie Bennett

February 8, 2013 at 9:25am

It’s a familiar pattern.

A father achieves wealth in the business world. At least one son follows in his footsteps. Another, backed by the family fortune, goes into politics.

John D. Rockefeller
John D. Rockefeller

As Muckety maps, they fall into similar shapes - pyramids, with the father at the peak.

If he is a clever enough businessman and his sons are savvy politicians, the pyramid builds over more than one generation. (We don’t mean to be sexist about this. It’s just that the phenomenon is predominantly male.)

While the Kennedys might come to mind, they don’t fit the mold because patriarch Joe Kennedy groomed his sons to be politicians, not businessmen.

The Bushes also veer from the template. After Samuel P. Bush began building the family fortune as president of Buckeye Steel Castings, his descendants tended to combine business and political careers. (See our map of the Bush dynasty.)

Here are four families who built power pyramids by dividing business and political responsibilities among sons:

The Rockefellers

A better example would be the Rockefellers, shown in the Muckety map above.

John D. Rockefeller launched the family fortune with Standard Oil. His son, John Jr., continued to expand the family’s business interests, as did his son, David Rockefeller, former chairman and CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank.

Another son, Nelson Rockefeller, was governor of New York and vice president during the Ford administration. Nelson’s brother Winthrop was governor of Arkansas.

In the next generation, Jay Rockefeller was governor of West Virginia and now serves in the Senate. He announced in January that he will not seek re-election in 2014.

The Haslams

The map above shows the Haslam family. James Haslam II founded the Pilot Corp., owner of convenience stores and truck stops.

Son James III is CEO of Pilot and owner of the Cleveland Browns. Son Bill is the governor of Tennessee and former mayor of Knoxville.

The Frists

Thomas Frist Sr. founded the Hospital Corporation of America, a precursor to the publicly traded HCA Holdings. Son Thomas Jr., a billionaire, served as chairman. Son William served two terms in the Senate.

The Huntsmans

John Huntsman Sr. founded the Huntsman Corporation, a chemical company that is now publicly traded.

Three sons are currently involved in the company. James is a division president; Peter is president and CEO; and Jon Jr. is a director.

Jon Huntsman Jr. also sits on the boards of Caterpillar and Ford Motor. Before returning to the business world, however, he was governor of Utah, U.S. ambassador to China and an unsuccessful candidate for president.

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