Alice Walton is the heir to the Walmart retail conglomerate with more than $550 billion in annual sales. Her private fortune is now $62 billion. She makes collecting art, redefining medicine and defending the honor of the province her mission in life.
Alice Walton is 72 years old and likes to wear oversized glasses. Possibly to look at her vast fortune – because she is the heir to Walmart, the largest retail group in the world. According to new estimates, she is the richest woman in the world.
She can call her own between 60 and 70 billion – depending on the stock market situation, this can fluctuate by a few billion during the day. And then the other three super-rich ladies Melinda Gates (ex-wife of Bill Gates, Microsoft), MacKenzie Scott (ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, Amazon) and Francoise Bettencourt-Meyers (heiress of the cosmetics company L'Oréal) may come into their money fields .
Where are the billions coming from?
In 1992 her father and legendary founder of the US retail chain, Sam Walton, died. Alice and her three brothers inherited. Her brother John T. Walton died in a plane crash in 2005. With the success of Walmart, the Waltons' wealth continued to grow, they are now the richest family in the United States.
Walmart employs 2.2 million people worldwide, making it the largest private employer in the world. The group alone has 2,000 analysts employed to predict the behavior of its customers. Walmart had sales of more than $550 billion in fiscal 2020. As a state, Walmart would rank among the 25 largest in the world with a gross domestic product of that magnitude. In addition, Walmart has a pre-tax profit of 20 billion US dollars.
Unlike her brothers, Walton did not initially play a major role in Walmart, although she studied economics and earlier in her career was an equity analyst for First Commerce Corporation and director of investment activities for Arrest Bank Group. She even tried her hand as a stockbroker at EF Hutton. In 1988 she founded the Lama Company, an investment bank that she ran herself, but which closed in 1998.
Although the Waltons are a committed Republican family and have provided massive financial support to the George W. Bush campaign, Alice Walton donated exactly $353,400 to the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016. Walton and Clinton met during Clinton's tenure as First Lady of Arkansas and a member of Walmart's board of directors.
Alice Walton: Repeated drunken driving
Walton made headlines several times for binge drinking. She was involved in three serious car accidents. In 1983, she lost control of a rented vehicle near Acapulco and fell into a ravine, severely injuring her leg. After 22 operations, she is still suffering from the consequences today.
In April 1989, her car struck 50-year-old Oleta Hardin crossing the street. She then died, but no charges were brought against Walton. In 1998, while under the influence of alcohol, her car collided with a gas pump. She had to pay a fine of $925. Walton hit the headlines when she was arrested and driving under the influence of alcohol on October 7, 2011, her 62nd birthday.
Walton (twice divorced and now single) is a self-confessed backwoodswoman who grew up in Bentonville, Arkansas. In 1971 she graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas with a bachelor's degree in economics and finance. But she wasn't really interested in the family business. Between 1998 and 2015 she lived and bred horses on a ranch in Millsap, Texas.
Hobby for the super-rich: art is her great fascination
Since then she has had an immeasurable amount of money – and she puts it mainly in art. Alice Walton is said to have bought her first picture at the age of eleven in one of her father's shops, which was still small at the time. A Picasso poster for 25 cents, earned by selling popcorn in front of her father's shops.
Today her art collection is valued at a billion dollars. She owns works by American artists such as Andy Warhol and Norman Rockwell, among others. In 2014, she spent $44.4 million on a Georgia O'Keefe artwork. It is the most expensive work of art by an artist ever sold. Walton has exhibited it in her museum in Arkansas ever since.
Since 2011, a large part of her art collection has been on public display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Walton founded the museum, admission is free – but you have to get to the remote area first. Designed by Israeli architect Mosche Safdie, the multi-pavilion exhibition hall spans a creek and is spectacularly situated in the middle of a forest.
Numerous hiking trails lead around the museum. The property is owned by the Waltons, who, from the remote town of Bentonville in rural north-west Arkansas, have formed Wal-Mart into one of the largest companies in the world since the 1960s. One of the most spectacular museums in the world is now in Bentonville. Alice Walton sees it as a demonstration of the underestimated power of the provinces.
Their plan: revolution in medicine and salvation of the province
But every now and then she is also drawn to New York. There she bought a two-story condo on Park Avenue for $25 million. The super luxury apartment features 52 large windows overlooking Central Park and the city skyline. There are regular demonstrations by trade unionists in front of the house, protesting for higher minimum wages at Walmart.
Under the impact of the pandemic, Walton is now announcing plans to build a new type of non-profit medical college. The "Whole Health School of Medicine and Health Sciences" is designed as a state-of-the-art educational and training facility – albeit with a "holistic approach that includes body, mind and soul". In her announcement, she described the American health care system as "a system of disease prevention". She wants to change that – with a huge investment program.
The revolution in modern medicine is also set to start in Bentonville. The provincial backwater with a leisurely 35,000 inhabitants now has not only one of the most spectacular art museums in the world but also a medtech center of global format. Bentonville and Benton County with its officially registered 2069 chicken coops are rapidly becoming an international tourist attraction – curious people come from all over the world not only to visit the first store that Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton opened in 1950 – but also to see the lighthouse projects his daughter Alice, the richest woman in the world.