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Alice Louise Walton (born October 7, 1949) is an American heiress to the fortune of Walmart. In September 2016, she owned over US$11 billion in Walmart shares.[3] As of March 2022, Walton has a net worth of $60.5 billion, making her the 20th-richest person, and the second richest woman in the world according to Bloomberg Billionaires Index.[4]

Alice Walton

Early life and education[edit]

Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas.[1] She was raised along with her three brothers in Bentonville, Arkansas and graduated from Bentonville High School in 1966. She graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with a B.A. in economics.[5]

Career[edit]

Early in her career, Walton was an equity analyst and money manager for First Commerce Corporation[6] and headed investment activities at Arvest Bank Group.[7] She was also a broker for EF Hutton.[5] In 1988, Walton founded Llama Company, an investment bank, where she was president, chairwoman and CEO.[6][7]

Walton was the first person to chair the Northwest Arkansas Council and played a major role in the development of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport, which opened in 1998.[8] At the time, the business and civic leaders of Northwest Arkansas Council found a need for the $109 million regional airport in their corner of the state.[9] Walton provided $15 million in initial funding for construction.[9] Her company, Llama Company, underwrote a $79.5 million bond.[9] The Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport Authority recognized Walton’s contributions to the creation of the airport and named the terminal the Alice L. Walton Terminal Building.[10] She was inducted into the Arkansas Aviation Hall of Fame in 2001.[11]

In the late 1990s, Llama Co. closed, and in 1998, Walton moved to a ranch in Millsap, Texas, named Walton’s Rocking W Ranch.[5][12][13] An avid horse-lover, she was known for having an eye for determining which 2-month-olds would grow to be champion cutters.[14] Walton listed the farm for sale in 2015 and moved to Fort Worth, Texas, citing the need to focus on the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, the Bentonville, Arkansas, art museum she founded that opened in 2011.[15][16][17]

In his 1992 autobiography Made in AmericaSam Walton remarked that Alice was “the most like me—a maverick—but even more volatile than I am.”[8]

Art[edit]

Walton and her mother would often paint watercolors on camping trips.[8] Her interest in art led to the Walton Family Foundation developing the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas.

In December 2004, Walton purchased art sold from the collection of Daniel Fraad and Rita Fraad at Sotheby’s, in New York.[8]

In 2005, Walton purchased Asher Brown Durand‘s celebrated painting, Kindred Spirits, in a sealed-bid auction for a purported US$35 million.[18] The 1849 painting, a tribute to Hudson River School painter Thomas Cole, had been given to the New York Public Library in 1904 by Julia Bryant, the daughter of Romantic poet and New York newspaper publisher William Cullen Bryant, who is depicted in the painting with Cole.[19] She has also purchased works by American painters Winslow Homer and Edward Hopper, as well as a notable portrait of George Washington by Charles Willson Peale,[20] in preparation for the opening of Crystal Bridges.[21] In 2009, Walton acquired Norman Rockwell‘s “Rosie the Riveter” for $4.9 million.[22]

Walton’s attempt to quit smoking inspired her to purchase a painting reminiscent of an earlier painting by John Singer Sargent by Alfred Maurer which depicts a full-length woman smoking.[23] Another painting, by Tom Wesselmann, is titled “Smoker #9[24]” and depicts a hyper realistic, disembodied hand and mouth smoking a cigarette.[23]

In a 2011 interview, she spoke about acquiring great works by other artists. She described Marsden Hartley as “one of my favorite artists-he was a very complex guy, somewhat tormented, but a very spiritual person, and love the emotion and the feel and the spirituality of his work”. She went on to say “and Andrew Wyeth-the mystery and loneliness that is expressed. How do you paint loneliness?”[8]

Political contributions[edit]

Alice Walton was the 20th-largest individual contributor to 527 committees in the U.S. presidential election 2004, donating US$2.6 million to the conservative Progress for America group.[25] As of January 2012, Walton had contributed $200,000 to Restore Our Future, the super PAC associated with Mitt Romney‘s presidential campaign.[26] Alice donated $353,400 to the Hillary Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee supporting Clinton and other Democrats, in 2016.[27] In 2016, Walton and other Walmart heirs donated $407 million in Walmart shares to a Family Trust which finances its philanthropy.[28]

Personal life[edit]

Walton married a prominent Louisiana investment banker in 1974 at age 24, but they were divorced 2½ years later. According to Forbes, she married “the contractor who built her swimming pool” soon after, “but they, too, divorced quickly”.[8][29][5]

Walton has been involved in multiple automobile accidents, one of them fatal. She lost control of a rented Jeep during a 1983 Thanksgiving family reunion near Acapulco and plunged into a ravine, shattering her leg. She was airlifted out of Mexico and underwent more than two dozen surgeries; she suffers lingering pain from her injuries.[5] In April 1989, she struck and killed 50-year-old Oleta Hardin, who had stepped onto a road in Fayetteville, Arkansas.[5] In 1998, she hit a gas meter while driving under the influence of alcohol. She paid a $925 fine.[5][30]

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