2 Maine families are among the richest in America

Two Maine families have made Forbes’ list of “richest families” in America for 2015: the Alfond family, listed at No. 62, and the Bean family, which made No. 134.

Alfond family

Harold Alfond receives an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the University of Maine’s 163rd commencement on May 9, 1981, in Orono. Alfond, a well-known philanthropist who supported numerous athletic causes, died in 2007 at age 93.  BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Harold Alfond receives an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the University of Maine’s 163rd commencement on May 9, 1981, in Orono. Alfond, a well-known philanthropist, died in 2007 at age 93. BANGOR DAILY NEWS FILE PHOTO

Harold Alfond gained his wealth by founding Dexter Shoe Co., which he traded to Warren Buffett for stock in the Nebraska businessman’s company Berkshire Hathaway. After Dexter Shoe ended production in the U.S., Buffett called his purchase the “worst deal that I’ve made.”

Alfond’s grandson is Senate Minority Leader Justin Alfond, D-Portland.

The Alfond family’s net worth is estimated at $4.8 billion, according to Forbes. Among those who made their millions solely in fashion and retail, the family is ranked 10th.

Bean family

The Bean family, of course, draws its wealth from L.L. Bean in Freeport. The family is worth $1.9 billion, according to Forbes.

It’s all started when Leon Leonwood “L.L.” Bean returned from a 1911 hunting trip with cold, damp feet. That’s when he enlisted a local cobbler to make a boot for traversing Maine’s woods.

To sell the boot, Bean mailed a three-page flyer advertising it to a list of out-of-state hunting license holders. He got 100 orders.

The boots didn’t hold up, though, and 90 of the first pairs were returned. It nearly put him out of business, but he gave refunds to everyone. At the time, it was a novel idea to put the customer first, but L.L. Bean built a brand — and a fortune — out of it.

Methodology

Instead of focusing on individual or nuclear-family wealth, Forbes’ list encompasses multigenerational families. Each family’s combined net worth must be at least $1.2 billion to get on the list.

Forbes added up their assets, including stakes in public and private companies, real estate, art and cash, and accounted for estimates of debt. It excluded assets pledged to charitable foundations.

The richest family is, with a net worth of $149 billion, the Walton family, which includes six heirs of Wal-Mart founders Sam Walton and James “Bud” Walton. A more unusual newcomer to the list this year was the Sackler family (No. 16 at a worth of $14 billion), whose company makes the pain drug OxyContin.