Nine Celebrities Who Also Happen to Be Heirs and Heiresses

Anderson Cooper, one of the Vanderbilts

The world of "reality-based" entertainment is filled with spoiled scions, from Paris Hilton to Kim Kardashian. For this list, I'll be ignoring them (and in fact we'd all do well to ignore them universally and permanently). I'm also excluding the many famous actor children of Hollywood stars (Kiefer Sutherland, Angelina Jolie, Michael Douglas, et al). Though born into money, they're not in the same league as these nine notables, who made it big on their own merits and without depending on ancestral wealth or pull – at least not directly.

  1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus. The popular sitcom actress (Seinfeld, etc.) is an heiress of the Louis Dreyfus Group, a French company founded in 1851 by Julia's great-great-grandfather. It is an international corporation involved in commodities trading, shipping, and real estate. Her father ran the company for several years; the Louis-Dreyfus family is worth around $3 billion. (After her parents divorced when she was a baby, Julia was raised by her mother and stepfather – not billionaires, but still loaded.)
  2. Armie Hammer. The rising star, who made his name playing twins in The Social Network and is top-billed in the upcoming Lone Ranger movie opposite Johnny Depp, shares his name with his great-great-grandfather, oil tycoon Armand Hammer, who ran Occidental Petroleum for years. The elder Hammer's net worth was valued at $200 million before he died in 1992.
  3. Carly Simon. The singer/songwriter behind such hits as "You're So Vain" is the daughter of the late Richard L. Simon, co-founder of the massive New York publishing firm Simon & Schuster.
  4. Anderson Cooper. The silver-haired CNN reporter is the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, herself a celebrity heiress who made her own mark in fashion in the '70s and '80s. The Vanderbilt dynasty, of course, stretches back to railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt, whose estate was worth $100 million at the time of his death in 1877. That's over $2 billion in 2012 dollars – and possibly much more, depending on how you calculate inflation.
  5. Edward Norton. The esteemed actor is the grandson of James W. Rouse, a hugely influential real estate developer who pioneered the modern shopping mall, for better or worse. Norton grew up in Columbia, Maryland, a planned community designed by his own grandfather.
  6. Balthazar Getty. The former teen star whose career's second act included roles in Lost Highway and Brothers and Sisters is the great-grandson of petroleum mogul (and Armand Hammer competitor) J. Paul Getty, who was worth $2 billion when he died in 1976. Balthazar's father was the victim of a horrific 1973 kidnapping in which the Getty patriarch infamously underpaid his grandson's captors.
  7. Chevy Chase. The divisive comic actor owes his posh upbringing to his mother's stepfather, Cornelius Vanderbilt Crane. Despite his first and middle names, Crane was actually an heir to Canada's Crane Plumbing empire, founded by Richard T. Crane Sr. in 1855. (Richard Jr. was a close friend of Cornelius Vanderbilt.) In short: Chevy Chase's family's money comes from toilets. Write your own joke here.
  8. Brooke Shields. The actress/model's roots in privilege are centuries old. Her father's mother was a princess of the House of Torlonia, a fabulously rich Italian aristocratic family who tended the Vatican's finances for 200 years. Her father's father was a top American tennis player, and her pampered father himself became a top executive at Revlon and Estée Lauder. Go figure.
  9. Spike Jonze. The quirky director of Being John Malkovich was born Adam Spiegel and is connected with the Spiegel catalogue family, whose company is worth $3 billion. Jonze has insisted – shakily – that he is only distantly related to the Spiegel clan and has never benefited from their prosperity; nevertheless, his great-grandfather ran one of the first major Hollywood studios and his father Arthur Spiegel III is a mega-successful entrepreneur in the healthcare industry.