The World’s Oldest Family Companies

Convincing evidence that smaller firms usually outlast larger ones.

By William T. O’Hara and Peter Mandel

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“Companies come and companies go,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill remarked when the Enron scandal broke last winter. For Secretary O’Neill and everyone else who subcribes to that presumption, the following list should come as a revelation. These companies—the world's 100 oldest continuously family-owned firms—have outlasted governments, nations, cities and certainly once-mighty corporations like Enron. Indeed, a common thread among most of them seems to be their manageable size. “Some of the oldest businesses,” the English business historians Henry G. Button and Andrew P. Lampert have noted, “are relatively small undertakings.”

More than size or wealth, the age of an institution determines its influence and prestige. Family Business first identified America’s oldest family companies last year (Spring 2001). This list of oldest family companies outside the U.S.—compiled over four years—is the logical companion. All of the listed companies are at least two centuries old; a few have lasted in the same family for more than a millennium. The very oldest, Japanese temple-builder Kongo Gumi, was founded in 578.

This compilation is less than scientific; it’s certainly not comprehensive or entirely accurate. It relies instead on the best information available to us. Two organizations were especially helpful in compiling our data: the Tercentenarians in the United Kingdom (comprising family businesses 300 years or older) and Les Henokiens in France (200 years or older). As with Family Business magazine’s previous lists of largest and oldest companies, readers are invited to pass along corrections or information that we may have missed.


1. Kongo Gumi
Founded: 578
40th generation
Prince Shotoku brought Kongo family members to Japan from Korea more than 1,400 years ago to build the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple, which still stands. Over the centuries, Kongo Gumi has participated in the construction of many famous buildings, including the 16th-century Osaka castle. Today the family continues to build and repair religious temples and manage general contracting from its Osaka headquarters. Current president is Toshitaka Kongo; his 51-year-old son, Masakazu Kongo, is waiting in the wings.

2. Hoshi
Founded: 718
46th generation
According to legend, the god of Mount Hakusan visited a priest, telling him to uncover an underground hot spring in a nearby village. The hot spring was found, and the priest requested that the Hoshi family build and run a spa on the site. Their hotel is now capable of housing 450 people in 100 rooms.

3. Château de Goulaine
Vineyard, museum, butterfly collection/France
Founded: 1000
The Goulaine family has owned this establishment for more than 1,000 years. The castle houses a rare butterfly collection in addition to a museum. It hosts various functions, including weddings. Wine is available for sale at the castle’s vineyards.

4. Barone Ricasoli
Wine and olive oil/Italy
Founded: 1141
The Ricasoli barons were first given their land by the Republic of Florence in the 12th century; today their Brolio Estate covers about 3,600 acres. The family’s main focus is its wine production, although 26 acres of the estate are used for olive cultivation.

5. Barovier & Toso
Glass making/Italy
Founded: 1295
20th generation
For centuries the Barovier family has produced crystalline glass, mother-of-pearl glass and gold-free cornelian red on Murano Island, about a ten-minute ferry ride from Venice. The Baroviers merged with the Toso family, who were also glassmakers on Murano Island, in 1936.

6. Hotel Pilgrim Haus
Founded: 1304
The Hotel Pilgrim Haus is located in the town of Soest, about 110 miles north of Frankfurt.

7. Richard de Bas
Founded: 1326
Richard de Bas has a longstanding reputation for high-quality papers, which has led to many high-profile jobs. The company has supplied paper for limited-edition works by Braque and Picasso.

8. Torrini Firenze
Founded: 1369
Jacopus Turini started the business, which is currently located in Florence. Perhaps the family’s most valued possession is its secretive and exclusive “Oro Nativo” manufacturing process, a method of working with gold while retaining its most natural color.

9. Antinori
Founded: 1385
26th generation
The Antinori family has been in the wine business since Giovanni di Piero Antinori joined the Florentine Guild of Vintners more than 600 years ago. Marchese (or “Count”) Piero Antinori and his three daughters currently oversee a worldwide system of vineyards in Italy, the U.S., Hungary, Malta and Chile that continue to be recognized by consumers and by wine critics for their superior quality Chiantis and other vintages. The company is housed in a Florentine palazzo.

10. Camuffo
Founded: 1438
18th generation
The business began in Khanià, a Venetian port on the island of Crete. It was founded by a man locals called “Camuffi” but whose real name was El Ham Muftiì. The family has supplied boats to Mohammed the Second, the Venetian Republic, Napoleon, the Asburg Imperial and the Royal Italian navies. Experts refer to a Camuffo boat as “the Stradivarius of the sea.”

11. Baronnie de Coussergues
Founded: 1495
16th generation
When King Charles VIII began selling royal property in France to pay off some of his expenses, Pierre Raymond de Sarret bought the estate known as Coussergues. Today the vineyard produces a wide variety of wines, including chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, viogniers, cabernet francs, merlots and cabernet sauvignons. The family sells 1.5 million bottles of wine a year in France and abroad and has won numerous gold medals for its wines.

12. Grazia Deruta
Founded: 1500
The company produces majolica, a special type of ceramic that pre-dates the 13th century. Current CEO Ubaldo Grazia has expanded the company’s business into the U.S. market and has produced three exclusive designs for Henri Bendel. Grazia has also done work for other major department stores and labels, such as Neiman-Marcus and Tiffany.

13. Fabbrica D’Armi Pietro Beretta S.p.A.
Founded: 1526
14th generation
Founder Bartolomeo Beretta’s world-class gun-maker is now a Hollywood favorite; its guns appear in the James Bond series, among other films. Beretta’s reputation for quality craftsmanship recently enabled the company to wrest a $56 million U.S. armed forces contract away from competitor Colt Industries. Beretta is the weapon of choice of other law-enforcement agencies around the world, such as the Italian Carabinieri, French Gendarmerie and Texas Rangers. The company also has earned distinction for its line of hunting weapons. Ugo Gussalli Beretta is the company’s current president.

14. John Brooke & Sons
Woolens/United Kingdom
Founded: 1541
15th generation
The company, founded by John Brooke, has provided fabrics for British troops (Battle of Trafalgar, World War II), French troops and Russian military personnel. Today it’s headed by the 15th generation, represented by Mark Brooke and his brother Massimo Brooke. Mark has changed the company’s focus within the past decade by creating an entrepreneurial development park in its old mill buildings.

15. Codorniu
Founded: 1551
Jaime Codorniu acquired the company in 1551, beginning centuries of family ownership. In 1976 King Juan Carlos I declared the Codorniu estate a national historic and artistic monument. The estate is visited by 200,000 people every year and produces about 60 million bottles of wine annually.

16. Fonjallaz
Founded: 1552
13th generation
Pierre Fonjallaz began the family business when he “devoted himself to the growing of the vine,” as the label on a bottle of Fonjallaz wine will tell you. The company, now in its 13th generation of ownership, is headed by Patrick Fonjallaz.

17. DeVergulde Hand
Soap factory/Netherlands
Founded: 1554

18. von Poschinger Manufaktur
Founded: 1568
13th generation
The von Poschinger glassworks in Germany began in 1568 when Joachim Poschinger took ownership of a glass factory near Frauenau, near the Czech border. Today the business is divided into three different areas—farming, forestry and glass works—though glassmaking is still the focal point of family business affairs.

19. Wachsendustrie Fulda Adam Gies
Candles, wax figures/Germany
Founded: 1589

20. Bernberg Bank
Founded: 1590
Bernberg Bank is one of the few remaining independently owned banks in Germany.

21. R. Durtnell & Sons
Construction/United Kingdom
Founded: 1591
12th generation
Founder John Durtnell and his brother Brian built their first house in 1593. It still stands and is occupied to this day. The company is extremely versatile; its projects have included the Royal Military Academy, Chartwell House (Winston Churchill’s home) and Buckingham Palace.

22. J.P. Epping of Pippsvadr
Founded: 1595

23. Eduard Meier
Founded: 1596
13th generation
The company today is run by Peter Eduard Meier and his sister Brigitte. Its product line consists of about 4,500 items.

24. Tissiman & Sons Ltd.
Tailors and outfitters/United Kingdom
Founded: 1601

25. Takenaka
Founded: 1610
Takenaka has built office buildings for some of Japan’s major corporations, such as Mitsui Bank and Nippon Life Insurance. The family company has won many awards for design, technique and quality.

26. Mellerio dits Meller
Founded: 1613
15th generation
Members of the Mellerio family from Lombardy, Italy, became seasonal workers in France in the 16th century as purveyors of handcrafted jewelry. The family became royal favorites when it helped foil an attempted assassination of King Louis XIII. Located today near the Place Vendôme in Paris, Mellerio is known for fine jewelry and as designers and creators of the French Open tennis championship trophies.

27. Alldays Peacock
Industrial engineering/United Kingdom
Founded: 1625
The Onions family met with immediate success making bellows in a little shed near Coventry, England, prompting rapid expansion of the company into a near-monopoly. The business, which took the name J.C. Onions, became the official bellow-makers to the queen. The company’s expansion continued as it merged with its biggest competitor, William Allday & Co., and eventually with J.C. Peacock. Over the years, the company has produced a range of items, including water turbines, tricycles, cars and centrifugal fans.

28. Kikkoman
Soy sauce/Japan
Founded: 1630
On the run after her husband’s military defeat and death at the Osaka castle in the 16th century, widow Shige Maki escaped to Noda, Japan, and established a small business making what was to become soy sauce. The family business became a unified company in 1917 when eight branches of the Mogi family merged their companies together. The company has grown into the world’s largest producer of soy sauce products.

29. Sumitomo Corp.
Founded: 1630
Masatomo Sumitomo opened a medicine and book shop in Kyoto in the early 17th century. As time went on, various members of the family added to the conglomerate, making it what it is today. Sumitomo Group’s current core consists of 20 companies focusing on banking, shipbuilding, mining, glass production, electronics, cement, lumber and chemicals.

30. Akerblads
Founded: 1630
21st generation
This charming hotel in Tällberg is currently run by members of the 19th through 21st generations of the Akerblads family. The property has been remodeled and expanded over the years but still conveys a 17th-century atmosphere while offering excellent cuisine and warm Swedish hospitality.

31. Van Eeghen
Founded: 1632
14th generation
The company was established in Amsterdam by Christiaen Van Eeghen and has earned a reputation for being a reliable, highly ethical trading partner. Beginning with its tall ships, Van Eeghen plied the historic spice routes from the Far East to Holland. Today Van Eeghen continues its involvement with world trade but has diversified its business activities to include processing food ingredients.

32. Gekkeikan
Founded: 1637
13th generation
The Gekkeikan brewery was established by Jiemon Okura in the town of Fushimi. The quality of its sake has led to the company’s appointment as the official supplier of the Japanese Imperial household. Currently, the business makes more than 170 different products and exports to more than 60 countries.

33. Hugel et Fils
Founded: 1639
12th generation
The Hugel family’s roots in the war-torn Alsace-Lorraine region of France reach back to the 15th century. In 1639 the family began to make wine in the town of Riquewihr. Today, its vintages have an outstanding international reputation and are exported to more than 100 countries.

34. James Lock & Co.
Hatters/United Kingdom
Founded: 1642
The company was founded by James Lock and now makes men’s and women’s hats. One of its most recognized creations is the Bowler (known as the Derby in some places).

35. G.C. Fox & Co.
Shipping agent/United Kingdom
Founded: 1646

36. R.H. Levey & Son
Funeral services/United Kingdom
Founded: 1649

37. William Adams & Sons
Potters/United Kingdom
Founded: 1650
12th generation
The family has been producing pottery since at least 1448. In 1650, brothers William and Thomas established their pottery business in Burslem, about 35 miles south of Liverpool. It’s currently run by members of the 11th and 12th generations.

38. Ulefos Jernvaerk
Metals, milling, forestry/Norway
Founded: 1657
On August 8, 1657, King Fredrik III gave a royal decree allowing the Cappelen family to begin the company’s operations. The family has become involved in many different businesses over the years, including owning ships, trading, and producing stoves and manhole covers. The company is currently Norway’s market leader in manhole covers, which accounts for 70% of the family’s business.

39. Friedr Schwarze
Founded: 1664
12th generation
Jan Swarte (the surname was later changed to Schwarze) began the family business in Westphalia, where he was a farmer and a distiller. Four generations later, Hermann Josef Schwarze bought a house at Herrenstrasse, where the family still lives. This house serves as the company’s headquarters.

40. Kronenbourg Brewery
Founded: 1664

41. James Kenyon & Son, Ltd.
Textiles/United Kingdom
Founded: 1664

42. Hedges & Butler
Wines and spirits/United Kingdom
Founded: 1667
Hedges & Butler’s reputation for quality and refinement earned it a contract in 1837 to be the official supplier of wine and spirits to Queen Victoria’s family.

43. Early’s of Witney
Blankets/United Kingdom
Founded: 1669

44. Mocatta & Goldsmid
Gold/United Kingdom
Founded: 1671

45. C. Hoare & Co.
Banking/United Kingdom
Founded: 1672
11th generation
The Hoare bank is the last survivor of the English private deposit banks that were originally established in the 17th and 18th centuries. The bank was founded by Richard Hoare and is now run by members of the tenth and 11th generations. The family’s pride in close customer relationships and meticulous service has attracted famous customers, including Samuel Pepys, Queen Charlotte, furniture makers Thomas Chippendale & Son, Lord Byron, Jane Austen and various prime ministers.

46. Firmin & Sons Ltd.
Uniforms and insignia/United Kingdom
Founded: 1677

47. Viellard Migeon & Cie.
Iron making/France
Founded: 1679
The business was started by a man named Nicolas Viellard and met with significant success after the French Revolution. During this time the business adopted a strategy of cultivating family alliances to consolidate the iron works in the town of Morvillars, in eastern France.

48. Gradis Corp.
Wine trading/France
Founded: 1685
The Gradis family, originally from Portugal, settled in Bordeaux in the late 1500s. Diego Gradis later began the family wine trading business. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-63), family ships were used to re-supply troops in Canada. During World War I, the French government commissioned the family to ensure the supply of sugar for France. Today, the family has returned to its roots in wine trading.

49. Toye, Kenning & Spencer
Weavers/United Kingdom
Founded: 1685
Toye, Kenning & Spencer holds a royal warrant and over the years has produced much of the United Kingdom’s regalia, medals and uniforms. Brian Toye is the current chairman.

50. Yamamotoyama
Founded: 1690
The Yamamotoyama family began producing teas in Japan more than three centuries ago. The company is now the world’s oldest family-owned tea business.

51. Cartiera
Mantovana Corp.
Founded: 1690
The Marenghi family, descendants of Riccio da Parma (a knight famous for his battles in the early 1500s), owns the company. In 1688 the Duke of Mantua granted the family the privilege of selling paper; production began in 1690. The company is currently run by Cristina Marenghi and her sons Marcofabio, Alberto and Vittorio.

52. Delamare et Cie.
Packaging materials/France
Founded: 1690
The company was founded by André Delamare and is now run by François Delamare. Family members initially worked with wood, making carts and stagecoaches. Eventually they expanded into plastics and adhesives in the packaging market. The family has earned two top packaging awards, in 1986 and 1988. Today it conducts research on recycling and transformation of industrial waste.

53. Folkes Group
Real estate and engineering/United Kingdom
Founded: 1697
Seventh generation
The company began by making chain mail and swords and is now the oldest firm with a current stock market listing in the United Kingdom. In addition to making real estate investments, the company produces specialized cargo handling equipment, large crankshafts, roofing materials and other products.

54. Berry Brothers & Rudd Ltd.
Wine merchants/United Kingdom
Founded: 1698
Family of coffee, tea and spice merchants gravitated to wines and spirits later. They earned the right to supply the British royal family in 1760 and continue to do so—they currently hold royal warrants to the queen and the prince of Wales. The family operates out of the same shop where they began three centuries ago.

55. Shepherd Neame
Brewer/United Kingdom
Founded: 1698
Fifth generation
Britain's oldest brewer, founded by Capt. Richard Marsh, who was the mayor of Faversham, in Kent. Samuel Shepherd and his sons Julius and John eventually bought the business. When Percy Beale Neame joined the partnership in 1864, the company’s beer began to gain widespread renown. The Neame family has remained in control ever since.

56. William Dalton & Sons
Pest control/United Kingdom
Founded: 1710

57. Tissages Denantes
Founded: 1723
Even with more than 400 employees, the company preserves its traditions, which began in the 18th-century French trade fairs. Michel Denantes and his wife, Barbe, established a reputation for fine cloth at these fairs.

58. Amarelli
Founded: 1731
The family’s roots in Italy’s Calabria region—which according to the British Encyclopedia has the best licorice in the world—pre-date the year 1000. Fortunato Amarelli created the Amarelli company with his son in 1731. In 1987 the company won the gold medal from the Italian Chemical Company for combining traditional craftsmanship with modern technology.

59. Fraterri Piacenza Corp.
Founded: 1733
11th generation
In 1733, Pietro Francesco Piacenza created the first woolen mill in Pollone, a small town nestled at the foot of the Alps, near the Swiss and French borders. The family prides itself on its strict quality standards—its method of producing wool takes up to six times longer than some more modern techniques. The results are widely acclaimed. The company’s president today is Riccardo Piacenza.

60. Taittinger Champagne
Founded: 1734
The business was begun by Jacques Fourneaux. After World War I, the Taittinger family merged with Fourneaux-Forest (as the company was known at the time). The Taittingers ultimately took control of the operation. Claude Taittinger runs the business today.

61. William Clark & Sons
Linen/Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Founded: 1739
Ninth generation
The family has operated for more than 250 years as a manufacturer of linens in Northern Ireland and now runs the oldest family-owned linen factory in the world. Their international reputation for quality and value has made Irish linen perhaps more highly prized than any other cloth. The company is currently run by Bobby and Stephen Clark of the ninth generation.

62. Boplaas
Agriculture/Orchards/South Africa
Founded: 1743
Ninth generation
The farm was founded by Isaak Wilhelm Van der Merwe and is now run by two brothers, Frans and Nicolaas Van der Merwe, of the family’s ninth generation. The family also has built a literary legacy through poet Isaac Wilhelmus Van der Merwe, known nationally as “Boerneef,” and current author Carl Van der Merwe (eighth generation). The family farm was declared a national monument in 1973.

63. Aubanel
Publishing Co.
Founded: 1744
The business was started by Antoine Aubanel in Avignon. Rome awarded Antoine the title of “master printer” in 1756, and in 1780 he was appointed the official printer to the Pope, an honor that was to be handed down from generation to generation. The family refused to publish Napoleon Bonaparte’s book Le Souper De Beaucaire.

64. Fonderia Daciano Colbachini & Figli
Bell maker/Italy
Founded: 1745
The family business was founded by Giuseppe Colbachini when he joined with his three brothers to make bells. The Colbachini family’s talents earned them the prestigious title of “Pontifical Foundry” on January 17, 1898. To this day, Fonderia Daciano Colbachini & Figli is the only maker of bells in the world that is able to stamp its products with the Papal coat of arms. The business is currently directed by Giovanni Aldinio-Colbachini.

65. J.D. Neuhaus Hebezeuge
Hoist manufacturers/Germany
Founded: 1745
Seventh generation
Johann Diederich Neuhaus began the business when he joined the Factory Register in Germany as a manufacturer. The company started by producing wooden jacks, which were in high demand by carters who would constantly break their wheels on the rough terrain of 18th-century roads. In 1952 the company invented the air hoist, which was much safer than the electrical hoists that were being produced at the time. Today, the company’s products are sold in 90 countries. One product, the Gorilla V, is the world’s most powerful air hoist: It can lift 250 tons. Johann Diederich Neuhaus, who represents the seventh generation, is the current chairman.

66. Avandero Corp.
Founded: 1746

67. Nagelmakers
Founded: 1747

68. Villeroy & Boch
Founded: 1748
The family business began in Lorraine when François Boch, then an iron founder, started making ceramic tableware. In 1791, Nicolas Villeroy established a nearby ceramic factory. In 1836, these two families merged their factories to form Villeroy & Boch.

69. Zenith Pipe Company
Tobacco pipes/Netherlands
Founded: 1749
Eighth generation
Aart van der Want currently runs the company.

70. Marie Brizard & Roger International
Founded: 1755
Eighth generation
The company traces its origins to 18th-century Bordeaux, where, as legend has it, Marie Brizard saved a sailor from death. To show his gratitude, the sailor told Marie about an elixir that supposedly could cure every type of ill. Marie joined with her nephew Jean-Baptiste Roger to start the family company by producing the “elixir” known as anisette. The business is still centered in Bordeaux and is currently run by Jean-Baptiste Roger, an eighth-generation descendant of the founding family. Today the company’s products can be found in more than 120 countries.

71. Joseph Drouhin
Founded: 1756
Parts of the family’s wine cellars date back to the 13th century. One portion of their cellar was built in the 16th century for the king of France. The family’s cellars have been classified as historical treasures. Today the family’s estate covers more than 162 acres. Family members Robert, Philippe, Véronique, Françoise and Frédéric currently run the winery.

72. Lanificio Conte S.p.A.
Founded: 1757
The business was started when Antonio Di Giovan Battista bought a woolen mill in 1757. The current president is Gemma Boniver Conte. The firm has cultivated a reputation for fine women’s clothing.

73. Jose Cuervo
Founded: 1758
José Antonio de Cuervo acquired a land grant from the king of Spain in 1758. In 1795, José Maria Guadalupe Cuervo was granted the first license from the king to produce tequila. The family business is now Mexico’s oldest existing company. In Spanish, Cuervo means “crow,” the symbol the firm uses to identify its products.

74. Waterford Wedgwood
Crystal, china, & cookware/ Ireland
Founded: 1759
Waterford Wedgwood is perhaps the world’s leading maker of luxury crystal, china, ceramics and cookware. The company’s most visible product is the large crystal ball lowered every New Year’s Eve in New York’s Times Square.

75. Creed Perfume
Founded: 1760
Seventh generation
The business was started in the United Kingdom in 1760 when James Creed received an appointment from King George III to make fragrances. The company moved its operations from London to Paris in 1854. Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales, both commissioned the company to make scents for them. Today the company has 238 fragrances in its line and is run by Olivier Creed, who represents the seventh generation.

76. Griset
Founded: 1760
Antoine Griset established the family’s first metal foundry in Paris in 1760. The factory was moved to Rue Oberkampf in Paris in 1825. Here the platinum bar used by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures to denote the “standard meter” was first produced.

77. Hacienda Los Lingues
Founded: 1760
Don Melchor Jufré del Águila, mayor of Santiago, received an 18th-century gift from the king of Spain: the Angostura Estate, located in Chile’s Central Valley. He passed the land on to his daughter, Doña Ana María del Águila, and its 4,000 hectares became the home of a five-star hotel that can accommodate 37 guests. It’s also the home of one of the most prestigious horse stables in the Americas: the Aculeo Stable, which features horses brought to Spain by the Moors in 711 and later brought to the New World by the Spanish Conquistadors. Germán Claro Lira currently owns the land.

78. Faber Castell
Writing instruments/Germany
Founded: 1761
Eighth generation
The company was founded in Stein, Germany (near Nuremberg), when Kaspar Faber, a carpenter, produced his own pencils. Count Anton Wolfgang Graf von Faber-Castell currently manages the company, which makes about 2,000 products.

79. Möller Group
Metal products/Germany
Founded: 1762
Seventh generation
The family can be traced back to 1575. The Möllers began working with copper in 1762. Successive generations expanded the family’s focus to include a tannery and leather goods factory (1827), an engineering division (1863) and a plastics division (1936). Dr. Peter von Möller, who represents the seventh generation, currently runs the company.

80. Silca
Keys & key cutting machines/Italy
Founded: 1770
Fifth generation
Camillo Bianchi started the business when he invented the key-cutting service. The company serves more than 130,000 key-cutting centers, locksmiths and manufacturers in the security and automotive industries worldwide.

81. Osborne y Compania
Brandy and sherry/Spain
Founded: 1772
Sixth generation
The business was started by an Englishman, Thomas Osborne Mann, who in the late 1700s owned an export agency in Cadiz. Thomas enjoyed early success through his friendship with a British consul, who allowed him to store his wines in the consulate’s personal cellar. Today the company has about 700 employees and is headed by Tomas and Ignacio Osborne.

82. Editions Henry Lemoine
Music publishing/France
Founded: 1772
The family business was begun by Antoine-Marcel Lemoine in Paris. In 1810 he published the Messe Solennelle, composed for the coronation of Napoleon I. The publishing house also issued the works of Chopin, Berlioz, Donizetti, Halevy, Franck, Gounod, Messiaen and Piazzolla. Pierre Lemoine currently heads the company.

83. Bass Ale
Brewer/United Kingdom
Founded: 1777
William Bass bought a brewery in Burton in 1777 and brewed his first pint of ale. At first his output was only a few hundred barrels per year. This number grew to nearly 1 million barrels per year over the company’s first 100 years. It is said that Bass Ale was Catherine the Great’s favorite until Napoleon Bonaparte put a stop to Baltic trade. Today, Bass Ale’s beverages are sold on five continents.

84. JB Fernandes & Sons
Tools & ironwares/Portugal
Founded: 1778
Sixth generation
In 1778 an earthquake ruined much of Lisbon, then one of Europe’s most brilliant capitals. This disaster prompted Ignacio Jose Fernandes to open a business selling tools and iron goods to help rebuild the city. Today the firm is an industry leader in Portugal.

85. Ditta Bortolo Nardini
Founded: 1779
Bortolo Nardini founded the distillery when he bought an inn in 1779 next to the famous Bassano Bridge, about 45 miles northwest of Venice. The inn became known as the “Grapperia Nardini.” Grape pomace acquavite (known as grappa) had been made by peasants living in the area before the Nardinis arrived. Nardini introduced technology to the process of distilling the seeds, skins and stems left at the end of the winemaking process, making it more modern and scientific.

86. Asprey
Jewelry/United Kingdom
Founded: 1781
William Asprey founded the business in south London. Initially it made fine furniture. In 1832 Asprey was appointed dressing case maker to the king. Today Asprey shops can be found in New York, Geneva, Japan and Hong Kong. Asprey designed the sapphire and diamond necklace worn by Kate Winslet in the film Titanic. John Rolls Asprey currently runs the business.

87. Cadbury Schweppes
Drinks and confections/United Kingdom
Founded: 1783
Fifth generation
The Schweppe family business began in 1783, when Jacob Schweppe perfected a process for making mineral water in Switzerland. The Cadbury family business was established in 1824 when John Cadbury began selling tea and coffee. These two companies merged in 1969. Over the years the company has supplied the British royal family with its products.

88. Confetti Mario Pelino
Founded: 1783
Seventh generation
Sulmona, Italy, has been a confectionary-making center for three centuries. In 1783, thanks to the Pelino family, it became the confetti capital as well. Unlike paper confetti, Pelino confetti is a confection that is used to celebrate weddings, christenings, graduations and other occasions. The candies are made in a four-day-long process overseen by the Pelino family’s nine members, all of whom are occupied full-time in the factory and on the sales floor.

89. Molson
Founded: 1786
John Molson left his estate in England and came to Canada in 1786 before its independence from Britain. His first brewery that year produced enough beer to fill about 50,000 of today’s bottles, causing him to remark that “My beer has been universally well-liked beyond my most sanguine expectations.” Molson today is Canada’s largest brewery and enjoys a strong reputation in international markets.

90. Wilson Fuel
Founded: 1788
Eighth generation
The family’s main focus is on fuel production. They own a chain of gas stations in Nova Scotia, along with a couple of ski hills. Steve and Ian Wilson currently run the company.

91. Revol
Craft pottery/France
Founded: 1789
Eighth generation
François Revol and his younger brother Joseph began the business. In 1806 their porcelain won first prize for the quality of its glaze and its firmness at the Paris Exhibition; in 1868 it was awarded a silver medal at the International Exhibition in Le Havre.

92. Jeronimo Martins
Food retailer/Portugal
Founded: 1792
Jeronimo Martins is Portugal’s second-largest food retailer. Chairman Alexandre Soares dos Santos, 65, and four of his seven children work in the business, which is now focused on an aggressive overseas expansion. The family owns 60% of the group.

93. Bonhams
Auction house/United Kingdom
Founded: 1793
Bonhams is currently the world’s third largest auction house, after the merger of Bonham & Brooks with Phillips Auctioneers in the United Kingdom. The auction house has about 200 specialists in more than 40 departments. It claims to be the only leading auction house run by professional auctioneers.

94. Louis Latour
Founded: 1797
Seventh generation
The winery has provided wine for various figures of royalty, including the Thurn-und-Taxis family, the court of Bavaria, the king of Wurtemberg, Ferdinand of Saxe-Cobourg, and the Radziwill princess. The family’s wines are also served at some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and restaurants, such as Monte Carlo’s Hôtel de Paris, Geneva’s Le Beau-Rivage and the Paris Ritz.

95. Industria Filati Tessuti Crespi
Founded: 1797
Seventh generation
Benigno Crespi founded the business at the end of the 18th century. The family’s focus is on high-quality clothing fabrics. In 1995, the company sold 8 million square meters of finished fabrics. Franco and his son Carlo Crespi currently run the company.

96. Egon Müller-Scharzhof
Founded: 1797
Fifth generation
It is believed that the vineyard was planted by the Romans around 700. It became the property of the church. After the French Revolution, when all church properties were seized and sold, the Scharzhof family bought the estate in 1797. The family’s vineyard is regarded as one of Germany’s finest.

97. Lombard Odier & Cie.
Banking and investments/ Switzerland
Founded: 1798
The bank enjoys a long reputation for quality service. (Jules Verne mentioned it in his 1872 novel From the Earth to the Moon.) Today, the bank employs more than 1,500 people in 13 countries.

98. N.M. Rothschild & Sons
Banking and investments/ United Kingdom
Founded: 1799
Nathan Mayer Rothschild left his father’s trading house in Frankfurt in search of his own fortune. He set up a business dealing with textiles in Manchester, England. But soon after, Nathan shifted his focus to finance and banking; it became the dominant branch of the legendary Rothschild family banking network. As his business grew, he bought a building in London that continues to serve as the firm’s headquarters. In 1825, when 145 banks failed, the Rothschilds provided the Bank of England with £10 million, saving the British banking system from collapse. Today the family has 40 offices in more than 30 countries.

99. Torres
Wine and brandy/Spain
Founded: 1800
The family has produced wine since the 17th century but didn’t sell their products until 1800. The Torres wines have won awards in Vienna, Philadelphia and Paris. During the Spanish Civil War, the family’s winery was bombed. It was eventually rebuilt by Miguel Torres Carbó and his wife. Today the company’s wines can be found in more than 120 countries.

100. Brucedale Pty. Ltd.
Founded: 1802
Sixth generation
Australia’s oldest family business belongs to the Suttor family. George Suttor received a land grant of 200 acres for providing botanical help to Sir Joseph Banks during a voyage to the colony of New South Wales. George named this land Chelsea Farm. When his children grew older, his elder boys, John and William, took possession of a 320-acre plot and named it Brucedale (in honor of George’s grandmother, whose maiden name was Bruce). Over time the family’s land holdings grew.

William T. O’Hara ( is founder and executive director of Bryant College’s Institute for Family Enterprise in Smithfield, R.I. Peter Mandel is his associate. The authors wish to acknowledge the research support of Bryant MBA candidate John Gunasti.

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