The Kennedy Fortune

The Kennedy Compound

The Kennedy Fortune Was Created Before The Family Patriarch Turned 40

The Kennedy Fortune was created by Joseph Kennedy Sr.

Joe, Sr. came from a middle-class Bostonian family. He built a fortune for his children and grandchildren, giving them the freedom to engage in public service.

Kennedy’s business ventures spanned stock trading, banking, movie producing, and selling liquor.

He presciently got out of the stock market before the 1929 crash. While most people saw devastating losses to their portfolios during the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Kennedy fortune grew.

Have you read my work on the Gilded Age and the Industrial Revolution?

Palm Beach Kennedy Fortune
Kennedy’s Winter House In Palm Beach, Florida

The Kennedy Fortune in Real Estate

The Kennedy family’s impressive real estate holdings became the stuff of legend. There were family compounds at Hyannis Port, Cape Cod, and also in Palm Beach, Florida. The family-owned Hialeah a cluster of homes outside New York City, too.

Joe Kennedy enjoyed majority ownership of Miami’s Hialeah Race Track.

In 1945, Kennedy started a trust to buy Merchandise Mart, a huge Chicago sales center built by Marshall Field. At the time, this was the world’s largest building.

Millions Upon Millions

Joe Kennedy’s money was also reputed to come from less savory sources. Rumors abound about Kennedy importing liquor during Prohibition, and working with mobsters. When Kennedy later sold his legitimate liquor importing business, it was to a mobster called Abner “Longy” Zwillman.

The true total of Joe Kennedy was never publicly revealed, although the New York Times made a conservative estimate of his net worth at $500 million at the time of his death in 1969.

Donated Salary to Charity

None of Joe Kennedy’s sons followed him into business. They all pursued his true dream of elected office.

Even as a young man, John F Kennedy seldom carried money with him. It was standard practice for his friends to pay the tab, sending the check to Joe’s office for reimbursement.

One of the wealthiest every presidents of the US, Kennedy donated his $100K annual salary to charity.

Millionaires’ Club

Many wealthy Americans take part in politics today, but at the time, the Kennedys’ fortune was singular.

In 2003, by contrast, Edward Kennedy was among no less than 40 millionaires in the US Senate.

Edward Kennedy’s net worth, stated to nudge $10 million, earned him a place in the top ten, but he was well behind his  Massachusetts colleague, John Kerry, with a net worth of $163.6 million.

Investing the Smart Way

In 1998, Merchandise Mart, along with a string of other properties, sold for $625 million. This represented a return on investment of almost 2000% in 50 years.

The Merchandise Mart was the last business family-owned business for the Kennedys. Family assets are now mainly held as securities. In 1990, even before that decade’s stock boom, Forbes estimated the Kennedy family’s wealth at $850 million.

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