There are several major differences between privately and publicly held companies, the most obvious being that shares in the latter are traded publicly on the stock market and are easily purchased by individual investors. The legal disclosure obligations for publicly traded firms are also stringent, which means that financial information about valuation and performance is readily available to anyone. By contrast, privately held companies aren’t obligated to publish their financials, which makes valuation a bit of a guessing game for Wall Street professionals.
That being said, it’s possible to rank privately held companies by size using metrics such as annual revenue and number of employees. Here’s a list of the 10 largest privately held companies based on annual revenue figures. (Note: Revenue figures are based on recent media reports. In some cases, companies report revenue on a fiscal year basis as opposed to a calendar year basis).
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1. Cargill Corporation.
- Headquarters: Wayzata, MN
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $107.1 billion
This Minneapolis-based multinational agricultural and industrial conglomerate has been in business for over 150 years. With 2016 fiscal year revenues exceeding $107 billion and roughly 153,000 employees, it’s easily the largest privately held company in the U.S..
The Cargill family controls 90% of the company’s stock, and they remain committed to keeping the company private. In fact, in 2011 when the largest shareholder wanted to liquidate his holdings, the company discussed–and quickly nixed–the idea of going public.
2. Koch Industries.
- Headquarters: Wichita, KS
- 2015 Fiscal Year Revenue: $100 billion
Headquartered in Wichita, Kansas, Koch Industries has its fingers in a multitude of industries, including energy, healthcare, technology, agriculture, finance, consumer products, and cattle ranching. Its fiscal year 2015 revenues totaled $100 billion. The company employs nearly 100,000 workers.
Koch Industries remains a family-held business. Charles and David Koch, the two most visible and active of founder Fred Koch’s sons, each own 42% of the company’s stock. The Koch family has an estimated net worth of $84 billion.
3. Albertsons Companies Inc.
- Headquarters: Boise, ID
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $58.7 billion
This Boise-based grocery store chain is privately held by Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm. It reported fiscal year 2016 revenues of $58.7 billion. After acquiring the Safeway supermarket chain in 2015, Cerberus initially planned to take the company public in an IPO. That plan was later postponed indefinitely due to “recent market volatility.” There has been no talk recently of a public offering of Albertsons stock, but market-watchers regularly keep tabs on a potential IPO.
- Headquarters: Round Rock, TX
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $54.9 billion
With annual revenue in 2016 of nearly $55 billion and more than 100,000 employees, Dell is the largest privately held computer making company in the world. Founder Michael Dell was chief executive officer ofthe company for 25 years when it traded as a public entity, but in 2013, he and Silver Lake Partners successfully executed a buyout and took the company private. Prior to the buyout, Michael Dell owned about 14% of the company’s stock. After the $24 billion transaction was completed, Dell walked away with an estimated 75% of the company’s stock. Silver Lake owns the remaining 25% stake.
Not content to rest on his laurels, in 2016, Dell and its Silver Lake backers orchestrated the acquisition data storage and analytics company EMC Corp. for nearly $70 billion. It was reportedly the largest tech acquisition in history. The merged company is also the largest privately held global technology company.
5. Bechtel Group Inc.
- Headquarters: San Francisco, CA
- 2015 Fiscal Year Revenue: $32.3 billion
The Bechtel Group is the largest family-controlled construction business in the world with $32.3 billion in revenue in 2015. Its corporate leadership has remained within the family since 1898, when Warren Bechtel started the company as a railroad-building operation. Bechtel’s great-great-grandson Brendan Bechtel is expected to take over as CEO in 2018.
Bechtel’s projects include iconic projects such as the Hoover Dam, the Bay Area Rapid Transit System and the NASA Space Launch Complex. It also built the Channel Tunnel linking England and France, and the Hamad International Airport in Qatar.
- Headquarters: New York, NY
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $36.8 billion
Deloitte’s revenue of 2016 of $36.8 billion elevated it to the number-one spot in the professional services industry. The company employs over 244,000 people worldwide and provides audit and tax consulting as well as financial advisory services. Until 2010, Deloitte was organized as a Swiss verein, a voluntary business association. However, in 2010, the member firms reorganized under UK laws as a private company with limited guarantee.
- Headquarters: London, UK
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $35.9 billion
Headquartered in London, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which also does business as PwC, is the second largest professional services in the world. With annual revenue of over $35.9 billion and 208,000 employees, PwC is second only to Deloitte in this space. Its legal structure is similar to other professional services companies, with separate member firms functioning as independent legal entities.
8. Mars, Inc.
- Headquarters: McLean, VA
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $33 billion
The Mars brand is mostly associated with candies and confections, although its subsidiaries include food products company Uncle Ben’s,and pet food makers Pedigree and Whiskas, among others. the Mars family owns 100% of the company which generated revenue of $33 billion in 2016. Mars is headquartered in McLean, Virginia, and operates factories in the US, Europe, and Australia. It employs approximately 75,000 people.
9. Publix Supermarkets
- Headquarters: Lakeland, FL
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $34 billion
Publix was founded in 1930 by George Jenkins, and currently operates over 1,100 stores in the US. It is the largest employee-owned grocery chain in the country.. In 2016, Publix generated revenue of more than $34 billion Excluding superstores such as Walmart, Target, and Costco, Publix is one of the three largest grocery store chains in the U.S.
10. C&S Wholesale Grocers
- Headquarters: Keene, NH
- 2016 Fiscal Year Revenue: $30 billion
C&S dominates the wholesale grocery distribution market in the U.S., with annual revenue of $30 billion in 2016.. Its sole owner, Richard B. Cohen, is the third generation of the Cohen family to oversee the company. Cohen has a reported net worth in excess of $11 billion, making him one of the 100 richest people in the world. C&S has 175,000 employees.