What the World's Second Wealthiest Woman Spends Her Money On

The second wealthiest woman in the world has an estimated fortune totaling more than $33 billion, but where she puts that money may, in fact, surprise you.

According to the latest estimates, Alice Walton is the 13th wealthiest person in the world, and the second richest woman -- trailing only her sister-in-law, Christy Walton. The Walton family is synonymous with wealth in the United States through America's largest retailer, Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT  ) , which was founded by Alice's father, Sam Walton.

Source: Wal-Mart.

A true family fortune
According to the latest estimates, Walton Enterprises, the holding company of the Walton family, has a staggering 1.6 billion shares of the retailer (almost 50% of the company), worth roughly $120 billion. That explains why the ninth, 11th, 12th, and 13th wealthiest individuals in the world all share the same last name. 

The acclaimed daughter
Alice Walton began her career after Trinity College in San Antonio, working for Wal-Mart briefly, but she then left and ventured to New Orleans, where she worked as a broker with E.F. Hutton, (which eventually merged into Lehman Brothers in 1987). However, Alice had left much before then, as, when she was only 25 in 1979, she and 11 other employees were accused by the SEC of making options trades for customers that were "unsuitable."

Source: Wal-Mart

By the middle of the 1980s, she was back in Arkansas and helped start the investment banking operations at Arvest Bank -- Arkansas' largest bank, which is also owned by the Waltons -- before she moved on to create her own firm, called simply Llama, of which she said, "we formed Llama mostly to help companies get capital in our part of the world, which had been shut out from getting funding." 

However, following the upheaval of the bond markets in 1998 -- which was after Llama sold nearly $80 million of bonds for the creation of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, where a terminal is named after her -- Llama shuttered its doors and Alice moved on.

What she buys now
While Alice's days running an investment firm are behind her, she remains a very active investor, but not in things the typical investor can buy. Alice was instrumental in the creation of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which is located in Wal-Mart's hometown of Bentonville, Ark.

Crystal Bridges opened its doors on Nov. 11, 2011, and the $1.2 billion museum was funded almost entirely by the Walton Family Foundation. Alice herself donated her a vast amount to the collection of artwork it holds. In August of last year, Crystal Bridges welcomed its 1 millionth visitor.

Source: Wal-Mart.

"For years I've been thinking about what we could do as a family that could really make a difference in this part of the world," Alice said in June 2011. "I thought this is something we desperately need, and what a difference it would have made were it here when I was growing up." 

Crystal Bridges has a distinct desire for American art, and like stocks, prices in the art world are always dictated by supply and demand. One thing everyone can take to heart and learn from Walton is her anecdote to trusted Crystal Bridges board member and Princeton professor John Wilmerding; "Often when something would come up privately she'd say, 'Wait; it will come to auction where we can get it at a better price.' And she'd be right." 

So often investing is thought of as something individuals must do behind closed doors and in secrecy, but as Walton so clearly puts it, only when items are made public can their true value be assessed.

One billionaire who is happy to share
While Alice Walton has often shunned the spotlight, Warren Buffett has embraced it. In fact, while he has made billions through his investing, he wants you to be able to invest like him. Now you can tap into the best of Warren Buffett's wisdom in a new special report from The Motley Fool. Click here now for a free copy of this invaluable report.

Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (21)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 09, 2014, at 10:00 PM, vet212 wrote:

    So? now she enriches the lives of people in a poor state, good for her

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 12:08 AM, Disgustedman wrote:

    She sucked others dry, so she can live well....

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 8:19 AM, Winter1 wrote:

    They need to start paying their employees more an hour so they don't need to apply for food stamps and other help from the state... Makes no sense to me to have so much money while the employees barely squeak by... Come on....

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 10:15 AM, rmilburn250 wrote:

    Modern day robber barons....wal-mart's day is coming soon...

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:48 AM, af454maryjo wrote:

    One thing the Walton's could do with their inherited wealth is give a small raise to their hardworking underpaid employees.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 11:48 AM, fingerlakes54 wrote:

    No matter how good her intentions--that message will always be lost because having extreme wealth while your fellow countrymen are living day to day and hand to mouth--the wealthy will always be villains. Money really can't buy you love --or acceptance.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 12:33 PM, smartassone wrote:

    Many do not realize that aside from the shabby treatment of it's employees, Wal-Mart uses a highly un-ethical and immoral approach with it's suppliers. And how many smaller 'Main Street' businesses have been forced to close thanks to Wal-Mart?

    Perhaps we should start a list of 'The World's Greediest Individuals', in which case they might be close to the top. (I understand Sam Walton did not use the hideous tactics with suppliers that is now in place)

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:01 PM, lm1b2 wrote:

    Just what i want to know,how a Woman who made her wealth on the backs of employees who have to collect food stamps to survive,and are treated like dogs in the workplace she owns along with her wonderful Family LOL!

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:36 PM, Tanner29 wrote:

    Why do people keep shopping and giving money to these greedy people? Walmart, start treating your employees like you really do value them.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 1:56 PM, Tutt1410 wrote:

    Wow - those that never officially "worked" - failed at everything not controlled by the ultra-wealthy family - spend their inherited billions buying and collecting priceless art instead of daily sustenance - and this is cosidered "news"? Who is responsible for hiring "writers" to cut & paste such useless wordy articles that "report" nothing not already imagined or widely-known. The U.S. has officially been dumbed down to a third-grade level.

    Perhaps the next "article" can discuss the fine points of photosynthesis regarding why brussel sprouts are "green" or maybe something else just as earth-shatteringly informative.

  • Report this Comment On February 10, 2014, at 8:09 PM, AMK11B wrote:

    there was a resent report on TV about the family's use of Crystal Bridges an charitable trust . it allows a legal avoidance of federal taxes .while keeping the money available to the family for their use.

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Patrick Morris

After a few stints in banking and corporate finance, Patrick joined the Motley Fool as a writer covering the financial sector. He's scaled back his everyday writing a bit, but he's always happy to opine on the latest headline news surrounding Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett and all things personal finance.

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