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:

Billionaire Company Industry Wealth ($US) Rank
Herb Allen Allen & Company investment banking 2bn 133
Anthony & Barbara Cox Cox Communications media 12.5bn 12
Riley Bechtel Bechtel engineering & construction 2.4bn 109
Michael Bloomberg Bloomberg LP financial information 5.1bn 40
James & Margaret Cargill Cargill agriculture 1.8bn 164
Michael Dell Dell Computers computers 18bn 4
Roy Disney Walt Disney entertainment 1.2bn 283
Ray Dolby Dolby Laboratories sound 1.4bn 235
William Clay Ford Ford Motor Co automotive 1.2bn 283
Ernest Gallo Gallo Inc wine 1.2bn 283
Donald Hall Hallmark greeting cards 1.8bn 164
Hearst Family Hearst Corp media 2bn 133
William Hilton Hilton Corp hotels/casinos 1bn 346
Jon Huntsman Huntsman Chemicals chemicals 1.6bn 198
Peter Kellogg Kellogg Inc packaged food 2.2bn 116
Leonard and Ronald Lauder Estee Lauder cosmetics 3bn 73
Ralph Lauren Ralph Lauren fashion 3.3bn 67
Richard Marriott Marriott Hotels hotels 1.4bn 235
Forrest & John Mars Mars Inc confectionary 10bn 19
Charles Schwab Charles Schwab Inc discount stockbroking 3.8bn 58
Thomas Siebel Siebel Systems IT 1.3bn 258
John Simplot Simplot Inc potatoes 2.5bn 93
Martha Stewart Martha Stewart Living housewares 970m 377
Donald Trump Trump Inc real estate 2.7bn 83
William Wrigley Wrigley Inc chewing gum 3.4bn 65

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].

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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