Town & Country

In the May issue of Town&Country, the editors present the world’s 50 most powerful families. The names on the list represent 20 countries on five continents. They wield power in many different fields, including politics, finance, industry, entertainment, philanthropy, and the arts. They include business clans like the Rothschilds and the Oppenheimers, royal houses such as the Windsors and the al-Sauds, media families like the Sulzbergers, and entertainment dynasties like the Coppolas of Hollywood and the Bachchans of Bollywood.

The magazine defines power broadly, as the capacity to change the world in measurable ways. All the families on this year’s T&C 50 have more than one powerful living member. Most have made their marks in more than one field, such as business and philanthropy, or politics and the arts. While some of the families on the list have been powerful for centuries, or even a millennium, as in the case of the Scotts of Buccleuch, others have achieved their clout within the last one or two generations.

Some of the selections built major industrial companies such as Samsung, Fiat, and Koch Industries. Others, like the Kennedys of Hyannis Port and the Nehru-Gandhis of India, have accumulated power by producing generation after generation of public servants. Still others, like the Laurens and Ferragamos, have achieved lasting impact by defining particular visions of luxury at the scale of mass consumption.

T&C’s editorial staff defined an initial pool of about 200 families with help from a panel of outside contributors. They selected the final list with an eye toward variety, geographical diversity, and contemporary relevance. The 50 families don’t actually rule the planet from some secret bunker in cyberspace or the Swiss Alps; however, our editors do think they represent a meaningful cross section of power on a global scale. Step right up and meet the dynasties that are shaping reality for the rest of us.