It was interesting picking up a copy of the special ForbesThe 400 Richest People in America” edition and compare it to the much thinner and less comprehensive BRW Rich List.

Thumbing through the names an interesting trend emerged – numerous American billionaires have companies named after them, something which is not so apparent in Australia. This is just a sample of the better known examples from the Forbes Rich List:

BillionaireCompanyIndustryWealth ($US)Rank
Herb AllenAllen & Companyinvestment banking2bn133
Anthony & Barbara CoxCox Communicationsmedia12.5bn12
Riley BechtelBechtelengineering & construction2.4bn109
Michael BloombergBloomberg LPfinancial information5.1bn40
James & Margaret CargillCargillagriculture1.8bn164
Michael DellDell Computerscomputers18bn4
Roy DisneyWalt Disneyentertainment1.2bn283
Ray DolbyDolby Laboratoriessound1.4bn235
William Clay FordFord Motor Coautomotive1.2bn283
Ernest GalloGallo Incwine1.2bn283
Donald HallHallmarkgreeting cards1.8bn164
Hearst FamilyHearst Corpmedia2bn133
William HiltonHilton Corphotels/casinos1bn346
Jon HuntsmanHuntsman Chemicalschemicals1.6bn198
Peter KelloggKellogg Incpackaged food2.2bn116
Leonard and Ronald LauderEstee Laudercosmetics3bn73
Ralph LaurenRalph Laurenfashion3.3bn67
Richard MarriottMarriott Hotelshotels1.4bn235
Forrest & John MarsMars Incconfectionary10bn19
Charles SchwabCharles Schwab Incdiscount stockbroking3.8bn58
Thomas SiebelSiebel SystemsIT1.3bn258
John SimplotSimplot Incpotatoes2.5bn93
Martha StewartMartha Stewart Livinghousewares970m377
Donald TrumpTrump Increal estate2.7bn83
William WrigleyWrigley Incchewing gum3.4bn65

The comparison with Australia might reflect the more modest nature of Australian business where naming something after yourself is considered a bit egotistical.

A quick glimpse at BRW throws up names such as Gerry Harvey (Harvey Norman), the Smorgon family (Smorgon Steel) and the Myer family, but after that it’s relatively slim pickings.

Are Australians too modest to merge their name with their business, or are we just hopeless at generating brands of any description? Why isn’t it Pratt Board, rather than Visy Board and Lowyfield, rather than Westfield? Why isn’t it Packer Broadcasting Ltd or Murdoch Media? Your thoughts would be appreciated to [email protected].

Peter Fray

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