By Andrea Murphy
Cargill has returned to the top of Forbes’ annual list of the largest private companies in the United States. The farm company had dropped to No. 2 last year, just for the third time since 1985 when Forbes began compiling the list.
The revenue of the Minnesota-based company increased by 17% for the fiscal year ended May 2021 to $ 134.4 billion, boosted by higher agricultural prices.
Koch Industries dropped to No. 2 on the list for 2021, as its revenue for the year to December 2020 is estimated at $ 115 billion. The family-owned company operates in a number of sectors such as chemicals, refining and software and since 1967 has been run by billionaire Charles Koch.
At the top of the list are other well-known names, such as No. 4 Mars confectionery company, Boston-based investment giant Fidelity No. 10 and Cox Communications Group No. 14.
The inclusion in the list is based on the revenues of the companies for the most recent financial year. For 80% of businesses, this means revenue for the calendar year 2020.
The medical supplies company Medline made a sensation in 2021 when it announced that it was selling its majority stake in a group of private equity firms, in one of the largest leverage acquisitions ever made. The deal, which is said to be worth $ 34 billion, closed in October. Medline remains a privately held company and ranks 16th with revenue of $ 17.5 billion.
Food retailers did very well with 16 of the 19 supermarket companies on the list recording an increase in revenue compared to last year’s list, which is mainly due to increased demand amid a pandemic. The increase in revenue put two supermarket chains back on the list: Texas-based Brookshire Brothers at No. 162 and Arizona-based Bashas at No. 208. Revenue from Publix Supermarkets in Florida (No. 3) increased by 18% in 2020, with the company opening 39 new stores last year. In September, Publix announced that it would expand to Kentucky in late 2023.
Southeastern Grocers, No. 38, has been flirting with public registration for years, but canceled plans for an IPO earlier in November. The same thing happened in 2014. Southeastern owns the brands Winn-Dixie, Harveys Supermarkets and Fresco Y Más and its revenue is estimated at $ 9.6 billion.
Those off the list
This year, 19 companies did not qualify for the Forbes list either because their revenue fell, because they were acquired or because they applied for a public offering. Ten companies were left out of the list because their revenues fell below the $ 2 billion mark. Furniture maker Haworth was hit by the recession in the office furniture market and its revenue fell 19% to $ 1.8 billion in 2020. Delaware North’s revenue fell 61% to $ 1.45 billion due to cancellation of sporting events and reduced mobility at airports – sectors in which it operates.
The most “impressive” output was Airbnb. The short-term rental company was listed on the Stock Exchange through a $ 47 billion public offering in December 2020, after two years on the Forbes list. Petco Animal Supplies, Vizio and Jo-Ann Stores followed the same path. Vizio had applied to be listed on the Stock Exchange in 2015, which it withdrew the following year when it agreed to its acquisition by a Chinese company. The deal eventually collapsed and Vizio remained private until March 2021. Its founder, William Wang, remains CEO.
Two companies are not on the Forbes list due to acquisition. The Smart & Final food chain was acquired in May 2021 by Bodega Latina, a subsidiary of Mexican Grupo Comercial Chedraui. Nature’s Bounty, a New York-based vitamin company, sold to Nestlé in August 2021 for $ 5.75 billion.
Financial and business services companies Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young were removed from the list because all three are based abroad.
New entrants and “returns”
Twenty-five companies either entered the Forbes list for the first time this year or returned to it after an absence of at least a year. Of these, Uline ranked best at 73. The Wisconsin-based company trades in shipping and other business items, with revenues of $ 5.8 billion.
The newly formed Ultimate Kronos Group is at No. 138, achieving sales of $ 3.3 billion. The cloud computing company specializes in manpower and human resource management. Created in April 2020 through the merger of Ultimate Software and Kronos Inc.
Michaels Companies, a retailer of arts, crafts and picture frames, returned to the list as a private company for the third time. Michaels was founded in 1973 and listed on the Nasdaq in 1984. Blackstone and Bain Capital acquired Michaels in late 2006 and re-listed in 2014. Apollo Global Management acquired Michaels again as a private company in April this year in a $ 3.3 billion deal. It is noteworthy that Michaels made her debut at No. 81 in 2007, in the same position as this year.
The Brookshire Brothers grocery chain, ranked No. 162, returns to the list after 12 years. It was off the list in 2009, when the entry threshold was raised to $ 2 billion in revenue. Brookshire Brothers is “associated” with Brookshire Grocery at No. 168, since the two companies emerged after the original company split in 1938.
Forbes’ list of the largest private companies in the US includes only companies with revenues of more than $ 2 billion in the most recent financial year. In addition, most of the companies do not plan to change their private status. Excludes US-based companies, companies that do not pay income tax (such as the Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority), mutually owned companies (such as State Farm Insurance), cooperatives (such as Land O’Lakes), companies with less than 100 employees and companies that are more than 50% owned by another public, private or non-US company.
Also not included are companies with a core business of car dealerships, investments and / or property management. Instead, companies that are majority owned by private companies, such as Medline Industries, are included. The revenue data for each company do not include the sales of subsidiaries listed on the Stock Exchange. The data evaluated by Forbes for compiling the list comes from company updates, the Hellenic Capital Market Commission and estimates from Forbes researchers and other external sources.
See the full Forbes list of the largest US private companies for 2021 here