Wal-Mart Heir John Walton Crashes Plane, Dies at 58
John Walton, the son of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, died in a plane crash yesterday at about 1:20 P.M. local time near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.
Walton was 58 years old and lived in Jackson Hole near the site of the crash. He was flying the plane that carried no passengers, and crashed shortly after take-off.
The cause of the crash has yet to be determined. Walton was pronounced dead at the scene. Besides being the heir to the Wal-Mart company, Walton was a board member.
In Sam Walton’s biography, which was published about 13 years ago, he wrote this about John: “He’s the most independent of the bunch and the only one who doesn’t live here in Arkansas, and he’s a tremendous individual.” According to Bloomberg News,
In a November 2004 Fortune magazine article, writer Andy Serwer described Walton as a “renaissance man” interested in flying, sailing and technology and also as a venture capitalist.
The article called John “the crusader” of the Walton family for focusing on improving U.S. schools. He led the family foundation to donate at least $700 million to education-related causes between 1998 and 2004, USA Today reported last year. In March, Forbes magazine listed him as the world’s 11th richest person with a net worth of $18.2 billion.
“This is a horrible tragedy. What is so unusual about this is it is the founder’s son,” said a Wal-Mart analyst with Deutsche Bank, Bill Dreher. “Sam Walton was brilliant with estate planning. I don’t know the details with John Walton, but I would expect there would be a smooth transition.”
Walton had a wife and a son. One of his brothers, S. Robson Walton, is the chairman of Wal-Mart’s board. The Walton family owns about 40% of Wal-Mart shares.