By: Steven R. Strahler January 10, 2011
Inherited wealth has riven many families, such as Chicago’s Pritzkers. But another billionaire clan has just anointed its fifth-generation scion without so much as a public ripple.
The Smith family, whose more-than-$5-billion stock portfolio is rooted in Northern Trust Corp. and Illinois Tool Works Inc., is now represented on these boards by David H. B. Smith Jr., a 44-year-old lawyer and great-great-grandson of Northern’s founder, Byron L. Smith.
Universally private to the point of Masonic secrecy, the Smiths also are Chicago’s most durable corporate dynasty, with a history that dates to a time when the Swifts, Armours and McCormicks were the city’s new money. Byron L. Smith’s father launched the family’s empire in 1857, when he started a forerunner to Continental Bank. Byron L. Smith started Northern Trust in 1889, and with his sons established ITW in 1912.