Microsoft's (MSFT) Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway's () Warren Buffett and Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs are all household names in addition to being among the wealthiest people in the country. There are, however, other billionaires, whose companies or products are also among the best-known in the country, yet they live in relative obscurity, unknown to most -- including their best customers.
Take Subway, which serves 2,800 sandwiches and salads every 60 seconds in the U.S. How many of its customers have ever heard of its founder, Fred DeLuca, who was 17 when he opened the first store? Or Peter Buck, the family friend who loaned DeLuca the $1,000 that got the company off the ground back in 1965?
Likewise, Enterprise Rent-a-Car is the largest rental-car company in the U.S., but how many of its customers are familiar with Jack Crawford Taylor, the man who started the business back in 1957 and owns it to this day?
Every day, countless shoppers buy products made by Dole Food Company, the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh-cut flowers as well as packaged and frozen foods. Most people probably assume that Dole is owned by a large conglomerate, but in reality, a relatively unknown entrepreneur named David Murdock is Dole's sole owner. All net worth estimates mentioned below are credited to Forbes' World's Billionaire List for 2010.
Jack Crawford Taylor
Net Worth: $7 billion
Jack Taylor founded Enterprise Rent-A-Car, the largest rental-car company in the U.S. He started the St. Louis, Mo.-based company, originally named Executive Leasing Company, in 1957 with seven cars "and a hunch that customers will embrace the novel concept of leasing automobiles." In 2007 the Taylor family acquired National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car businesses. Through its subsidiaries, the company operates more than 1 million cars and trucks, the largest fleet of passenger vehicles in the world. Today, Taylor's son, Andrew C. "Andy" Taylor, is the company's chairman and chief executive officer. Enterprise's annual revenue was $12.1 billion in 2009.
Net Worth: $1.6 billion
Net Worth: $1 billion
Dr. Min Kao and Gary Burrell co-founded Garmin Corp. (GRMN) in 1989 to integrate GPS -- or Global Positioning System technology into navigation devices for multiple markets. The idea began as a brainstorming session of a handful of engineers around a card table. Today, the company's innovative products span various areas, including automotive, aviation, marine, fitness, outdoor recreation and wireless applications. In 2009, Garmin's total revenues were $2.95 billion.
Clayton L. Mathile
Net Worth: $1.7 billion
Clayton Mathile joined Iams in the 1970s and eventually became chief executive and chairman of the board. In 1974, Mathile bought half of the pet food company from its founder, Paul Iams, and then purchased the rest in the early 1980s. Under Mathile's direction, Iams became a world leader in premium dog and cat nutrition. In 1999, the Mathile family sold Iams to Procter & Gamble for $2.3 billion. Today, Mathile is a major investor in ooVoo, a Web-based company that allows up to six users to video chat in real time via smartphones, TVs, netbooks, PCs and MACs. Mathile uses his wealth to help change the world. He founded The Mathile Institute for the Advancement of Human Nutrition, a nonprofit committed to improving the nutritional health of children around the world. He also created Aileron, a campus for entrepreneurs that promotes professional management practices as the keys to business success.
Hallmark, Crayola, Silly Putty
Net Worth: $1 billion
Donald J. Hall is chairman of the board of Hallmark, which was founded by his father, Joyce C. Hall. He's is only the second board chairman in the company's history. Hall oversaw innovation in greeting cards, including launch of the Shoebox humor line and introduction of product lines for African-American, Hispanic and Jewish consumers; directed focus on Hallmark's network of independent Hallmark Gold Crown retailers; expanded the company's reach into international markets; and envisioned the potential to move into such product lines as Keepsake Ornaments. Today, Hallmark is the parent company of Crayola art products and Silly Putty. In 2009, Hallmark's consolidated annual revenues were $4 billion. Hall's son, Donald Hall Jr., is the company's chief executive officer.
Net Worth: $1.8 billion
Net Worth: $1.8 billion
In 1965, Fred DeLuca, a 17-year-old high school graduate wanted to open a sandwich shop in Bridgeport, Conn., as a way to earn money to pay for college. The young man was given a $1,000 loan by Peter Buck, a family friend. DeLuca initially called his fledgling business Pete's Super Submarines, and the name was changed to Subway in 1968. In 1974, the partners sold their first franchise. The Subway chain is now the world's largest submarine sandwich chain with more than 33,107 restaurants in 91 countries. Subway operates more units in the U.S., Canada and Australia than McDonald's. The company's global system-wide sales were $11.3 billion in 2009.
S. Truett Cathy
Net Worth: $1.5 billion
S. Truett Cathy is founder and chairman of Chick-fil-A. Cathy entered the restaurant business in 1946, when he and his brother, Ben, opened an Atlanta diner known as The Dwarf Grill (later renamed The Dwarf House). Through the years, that restaurant prospered and led Cathy to further expand his business. In 1967, Cathy opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant. Today, Chick-fil-A is the second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the U.S. with more than $3.2 billion in sales in 2009. As of February 2010, there are more than 1,480 Chick-fil-A restaurants in 38 states and Washington, D.C. Cathy has led Chick-fil-A on an amazing record of 42 consecutive years of annual sales increases. Today, Cathy devotes much of his time to philanthropy.
S. Daniel Abraham
Net worth: $1.6 billion
In 1945, entrerpreneur Daniel Abraham founded Thomas Medical Co. Its first diet product, Slim-Mint gum, was brought to market in 1956. Twenty years later, the company launched the Dexatrim diet pill. Slim-Fast meal replacement shakes were introduced the following year, in 1977. Slim-Fast was spun off in 1990 as a separate company and sold for $2.3 billion to Unilever in 2000. Today, Abraham is well-known for his philanthropy. He supports a variety of causes including improving health care and nutrition, encouraging Middle East peace and broadening educational opportunities.
Net Worth: $1 billion
William Kellogg got his start in the retail business as a buyer for Federated Department Stores. In 1967, he was hired by Kohl's (KSS) founder, Max Kohl, as a store manager. Working his way up the corporate ladder, he was named chief executive of the family-focused, value-oriented retailer in the late 1970s. In 1986, he led a management buyout of the company and retired as chairman in 2000. Kohl's is now one of the nation's largest retailers with 1,067 stores in 49 states. In 2009, annual sales were $17.1 billion.
Dole Food Company
Net Worth: $2.5 billion
David Murdock is the chairman of Dole Food (DOLE), the world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit, fresh vegetables and fresh-cut flowers as well as a line of packaged and frozen foods. The high school dropout is also the sole owner of Castle & Cooke, which develops and owns real estate, including golf clubs and resorts, in addition to the leasing of transportation equipment and the manufacturing of brick. Murdock's combined companies employ more than 68,000 people in over 90 countries and consistently ranks as one of the largest privately held entities in America. In 2009, Dole's net revenues were $6.8 billion. Today, Murdock devotes much of his time and attention to the David H. Murdock Research Institute, a provider of advance research technologies to academic, government and industry scientists in their pursuit of improved human health through advancements in nutrition, agricultural products and pharmaceuticals.