Family: Third child (and youngest son) of Sam and Helen Walton; sibling of Rob, Alice, and John (deceased). Wife Lynne McNabb Walton; children Alice A. Proietti (b. November 1979), Steuart L. Walton (b. April 1981), Thomas L. Walton (b. September 1983), and James M. Walton (b. August 1987)
Age: 65 (born June 1948)
Current residence: Bentonville, AR
Estimated net worth: $34.7 billion (as of March 2014)
The Walton family owns a majority stake in Walmart. Most of the family’s shares are held by Walton Enterprises, the family holding company that Jim manages with his siblings Rob and Alice, both directly and through their trusteeship of their late brother John’s estate. The Waltons’ stake in Walmart only recently crossed the 50% threshold, and this has implications under New York Stock Exchange rules, as a Bloomberg story recently explained, “[Some] institutional investors are expressing concern that the founding family’s stake allows the chain to have a minority of independent directors. As a result of buybacks, the Waltons own at least 50.9 percent of outstanding shares, up from about 39 percent a decade ago. Under New York Stock Exchange rules, that makes Wal-Mart a controlled company, allowing it to opt out of a requirement to have a majority of independent directors.”
As a member of Walmart’s Board of Directors, Walton also received $242,399 in compensation in 2012.
Jim Walton shares 96% ownership of the family’s Arvest Bank, of which he is the chairman and CEO, with Rob Walton and John Walton’s estate; as of March 2013, the bank’s assets totaled approximately $14.2 billion.
Jim Walton is chair of the Community Publishers, Inc., a newspaper and printing company that publishes newspapers in Arkansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. His stake in the company is unclear; however, the company’s website states that the top eight executives and officers own 100% of the stock.. The value of the company is unknown but Dun and Bradstreet has reported the company’s annual sales as $18.5 million.
Educational and professional background
University of Arkansas: Bachelor’s degree, 1971
Jim Walton joined the Walmart board in September 2005, replacing his brother John, who died in a plane crash in June 2005. He is currently a member of the board’s Executive Committee.
Walmart shareholders have increasingly expressed concern about Walton’s leadership of the company. In 2013, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System voted against all of Walmart’s board members, including Jim Walton.
Walton is the Chairman and CEO of the family’s Arvest Bank. The family banking business began in 1961 when Sam and Helen Walton purchased the Bank of Bentonville for about $300,000; Arvest now has more than 240 branches in Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. It is the largest bank in Arkansas by deposits and the largest bank in Oklahoma by locations. Jim Walton reportedly began his banking career as a teller at the second bank his parents purchased, the Bank of Pea Ridge.
Jim Walton co-founded Community Publishers, Inc., in 1982 after he purchased Bentonville’s daily newspaper from his father. CPI now operates 20 newspapers, three printing plants, and multiple newspaper websites.
Following his graduation from the University of Arkansas in 1971, Jim Walton worked for Walmart for four years in the company’s real estate division.
Jim Walton is recognized as a prolific donor to politicians at both the federal and state level—indeed, in 2006 and 2010, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that Walton topped the list of Arkansans giving directly to candidates or political action committees.
Jim Walton has given $636,000 in federal elections since the beginning of the 2008 election cycle—98% went to Republicans or Republican-affiliated political action committees. Walton made headlines for some of his largest contributions: a total of $200,000 to Restore Our Future, the super PAC associated with Mitt Romney’s 2012 run for President, and another $100,000 to Our Destiny, the super PAC associated with Jon Huntsman in 2012.
Extreme right-wing agenda
Jim Walton has a troubling history of supporting an extreme right-wing agenda through his political contributions. His preferred causes are anti-LGBT, anti-civil rights, and anti-public education.
- Anti-civil rights: Jim Walton drew attention in late 2012 for state-level contributions in Arkansas to extremist politicians and causes. Walton and his wife Lynne have contributed $3,000 to extremist Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert (R-Conway) since December 2010, according to financial reports filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State. Rapert has faced recent public scrutiny for his anti-gay and anti-choice positions – and for using racially-tinged language to attack President Obama at a rally in 2011. Rapert invited national criticism in early 2013 by pushing radical anti-choice legislation through the Arkansas State Senate. In 2012, Jim Walton also contributed to the re-election campaign of Loy Mauch, an Arkansas state legislator who has called the Confederate flag a “symbol of Jesus Christ” and acknowledged membership in the “neoconfederate” secessionist group known as League of the South.
Additionally, through the Walton Family Foundation, Jim Walton and his family support the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right wing group known for propagating Stand Your Ground, Arizona’s anti-immigrant SB 1070, anti-worker legislation, and discriminatory voter ID laws.
- Privatizing education: After Mauch’s views and Walton’s contribution drew attention, Jim Walton asked that the contribution be returned. “The contribution was made because of your support for education reform in Arkansas,” Walton’s letter to the campaign reads. “Since making the contribution, however, I have learned about some of your views on other issues with which I disagree.” Mauch’s views on education are wildly outlandish, based on letters written in this decade to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette:
- “Public education was forced upon the South during Reconstruction to complete the aim of the radical socialists, which was to destroy Southern conservatism.”
- “Public education is one of the 10 planks of the Communist Manifesto.”
- Desegregation of American schools “was never about education, but rather the post-American, despotic federal government coercing its will by using the military to execute the whims of a tyrannical judiciary.”
In 2004, Jim and John Walton both gave more than $3 million to an organization called All Children Matter, a committee headquartered in Grand Rapids, Mich., which supports privatizing public education through charter schools and voucher programs. During that election cycle, the organization spent about $8 million supporting state-level politicians in 10 states.
- Anit-LGBT rights: Further, in 2008, Jim Walton gave $75,000 to the Arkansas Family Council Action Committee, which at the time was supporting a ballot measure to prevent gay families from adopting. Walton’s contribution amounted to over 55% of all the money the group raised that cycle. The measure passed but has since been struck down by the Arkansas State Supreme Court (although defended by Walton-backed extremist state representative Jason Rapert).
- Wisconsin 2010: The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism reported in September 2011 that Jim Walton and his wife Lynne were among the top individual contributors to winning state legislative candidates in the 2010 elections that put Republicans in control of the state government. Six of the top fifteen contributors were members of the Walton family. Under the first budget passed by Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican-majority legislature, funding for public schools was cut by $800 million over two years, while funding for programs that funnel public money to private schools increased by $17 million over two years.
- Walton Family Foundation: Board of Directors
- Arkansas Public School Resource Center: Member, Policy Board. APRSC is an organization supporting charter schools and “school choice.”
- Economics Arkansas: Board member of non-profit organization promoting children’s education in free-market economics.
- Northwest Arkansas Council: Walton stepped down as Presiding Co-Chair in June 2013. The council is a regional development non-profit whose original membership included Arkansas business magnates such as Sam Walton, John Tyson, and J.B. Hunt. Jim Walton’s sister, Alice, was the first chairperson of the council.
 “State’s top 10 political contributors put money where interests are.” Paul Barton. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, August 20, 2006. “Atop donor list: Stephens scion 2010 top political contributors include Walton heirs, lawyers.” Seth Blomeley. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 23, 2011.