Forbes List of Private Companies

Written by jeffrey l. jones
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Each year, Forbes magazine publishes a list of the largest private companies in the United States. The 2009 list marked the 25th anniversary of the Forbes list of private companies. Magazine editors develop the list by comparing the previous year's estimated revenues of privately held businesses. The top ten companies on the 2009 list is a diverse representation of industries, including financial services, manufacturing and consumer products.

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For eight of the past 10 years, this massive agricultural commodities company has topped the Forbes list of largest privately held companies. With an estimated £69.1 billion in revenue, Cargill represents a wide range of products, from chicken feed to pharmaceuticals.

Koch Industries

With an estimated £65 billion in revenue, Koch Industries is a conglomerate of companies with interests in oil refining, chemicals, plastics, textiles, paper, construction and more. In 2006 and 2007, the Kansas company was able to attain the number one position on the Forbes list, but comes in at number two in 2009.


The maker of Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge automobiles made the 2009 list with £30.9 billion in revenue, a 20 per cent drop from 2008. Fiat, the Italian automaker, has a small stake in Chrysler, which went in and out of bankruptcy in 2008.

GMAC Financial Services

Once part of General Motors, GMAC is owned by a group of private investors led by investment firm Cerberus Capital Management. GMAC offers a variety of loan financing options for automobile, real estate and insurance to GM and Chrysler dealerships and customers. The Detroit-based company had a revenue of £23.0 billion.


Moving up from seventh place to number five on the Forbes list, Bechtel saw a revenue growth of more than 16 percentage points with revenue of £20.4 billion. The global engineering, construction and project management company works on projects around the world.


The candy maker, with seven of the top 20 candies in the world, makes the list with £19 billion in revenues. Known for sweets like M&Ms, Skittles, Snickers and Mars bars, the company also has a pet care division that makes pet foods.


Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) moved up a notch on the list with a 5.6 per cent increase in revenue. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, HCA owns, manages or operates over 160 health-related facilities around the United States and has revenues of more than £18 billion.


The accounting and consulting firm took the biggest drop in the top 10, falling from number five to number eight on the 2009 Forbes list. With £17.0 billion in revenue, PricewaterhouseCoopers provides services to clients in more than 151 countries around the world.

Publix Supermarkets

Up one spot on the 2009 list, the giant supermarket chain saw its revenues grow almost 4 per cent to £15.6 billion. The company operates more than 1,000 retail stores in the southeastern United States. It is the largest employee-owned supermarket chain in the country.

Ernst & Young

Even with a 13 per cent loss in sales, Ernst & Young was able to maintain its position in the top ten largest private U.S. companies. The New York accounting firm brought in revenues of just over £13 billion.

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