We live in an era of truly incredible wealth and vast inequality between the richest billionaires and every day middle class people. The 25 richest families in the world have a combined net worth of $1.1 trillion. The Mars family is the 3rd wealthiest family in the world with a combined $90 billion net worth.
The Mars family, of course, is the family behind the sweet sweet candy empire that has brought us Snickers, M&M’s, Milky Way, Twix, and so many other treats. Mars, Inc. is the sixth-largest privately owned business in the U.S. Worldwide sales top $33 billion. Mars Inc. is in its fourth generation of family leadership.
Mars, Incorporated was founded by Franklin “Frank” Mars. Frank was born in 1882 in Minnesota. As a young boy he learned to hand dip chocolate candy from his mother. By 1910, he was selling candy wholesale in Tacoma, Washington. In 1920, he moved to Minneapolis and founded the Mar-O-Bar Co. to manufacture and sell chocolate candy bars. The company later incorporated and became Mars, Inc. In 1923 he made a candy bar that was his son Forrest’s idea – The Milky Way. It became the company’s best selling candy bar. Mars introduced the Snickers bar in 1930. Frank Mars died from a heart attack at age 50 in 1934 and passed the family business down to his son Forrest Mars, Sr.
Forrest. Sr. raised his three kids –Forrest Jr., John, and Jacqueline to be frugal and private. They were sent to the best schools, but taught by their father never to trust outsiders – especially the press. As Forrest Sr. approached old age, his sons Forrest Jr. and John were eager to take over the family business. One year in the 1990s, just a few years before his father’s death, John Mars lost his temper and reportedly yelled, “How long do I have to work for you, Dad?!” John was 60 years old at the time.
The Mars family and their company have been hugely successful, however, they made a huge misstep when they turned down the product placement opportunity for M&Ms in E.T. Instead, Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces got the nod and Mars has been losing ground to their main competitor ever since. Mars is the second biggest candy company in the United States, lagging just a bit behind Hershey.
Forrest Mars, Jr. died in 2016 and Mars, Inc. is now 100% owned by John and Jacqueline Mars. Victoria Mars is the current chairman of the company, a position her father Forrest Mars, Jr. and grandfather Forrest Mars, Sr. once held. She attended Yale and received her MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She has spent her entire career in the family business and has been chairman of Mars, Inc. since 2014.
The Mars family is determined to keep the company in the family. If passing the family business to the next generation is not possible, the Mars family would be much more likely to sell to a larger company – perhaps Nestle – especially if that sale would stick it to their rival Hershey.