Six family dynasties who’ve shaped Kansas City
*Our photo features Ewing Kauffman with his wife Muriel. Photo courtesy of The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.
The Bloch Family
Founder: Henry Bloch (1922-2019)
Roots: Invented the commercial tax prep industry. Bloch brothers Henry and Dick had a small accounting firm and did personal tax returns for $5 as a side hustle until a Kansas City Star ad salesman convinced them to go bigger.
Heirs: Son Thomas M. Bloch was the CEO of his father’s company and authored his father’s biography. Son Robert L. Bloch is an author who wrote a book about Warren Buffett. Daughters Mary Jo Brown and Elizabeth Uhlmann are local philanthropists and socialites.
Landmarks: UMKC’s school of management is named for Henry Bloch. The fountain in front of Union Station was a gift from the family. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art’s collection includes Bloch donations of paintings by Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne, Renoir and Degas.
The Hall Family
Founder: Joyce Hall (1891-1982)
Roots: Invented wrapping paper and founded the world’s largest greeting card company.
Heirs: Hallmark remains privately held by the Hall family. Son Donald J. Hall Sr. took over the company and ran it before retiring; he remains the chairman of the board at age 91. Likewise, grandsons Donald J. Hall Jr. and David E. Hall are on the board.
Landmarks: The biggest is Crown Center, Joyce Hall’s massive urban redevelopment project that’s been called a “city within a city.” The Nelson-Atkins Museum’s world-class photography collection was largely a gift from the Hall family and is worth an estimated $65 million.
The Helzberg Family
Founder: Morris Helzberg (1867-1922)
Roots: The retail diamond business with a chain of stores across the country.
Heirs: Founder Morris Helzberg became ill and died shortly after founding the company, which his 14-year-old son Barnett Helzberg Sr. then grew. Son Barnett Jr. sold the company to Warren Buffett in 1995. Barnett Helzberg Jr. and his wife, Shirley, grew the company through an emphasis on sleek suburban mall stores before selling to Buffett and getting heavily involved in local philanthropy and development.
Landmarks: Shirley Helzberg is a major player in the Crossroads Arts District, where she’s invested heavily in real estate. She and her husband also put $40 million into University Academy charter school and donated $1 million for the fountain outside Starlight Theatre.
The Hunt Family
Founder: Haroldson Lafayette Hunt Jr. (1889-1974)
Roots: H.L. Hunt was in the cotton business until his holdings were devastated by floods. According to lore, he took the money he had left and made a small fortune gambling, then traded the winnings for oil rights to rich fields in east Texas.
Heirs: H.L. Hunt was once the richest man on earth. He was also a bigamist who had 15 children by three wives, two of them kept secret. The heirs have feuded — sometimes bitterly — since. The Kansas City Hunts descend from Lamar Hunt, H.L.’s son by non-secret wife Lyda Bunker. Lamar Hunt’s fortune is from professional sports franchises, amusement parks and silver speculation.
Landmarks: The vast Hunt Midwest portfolio includes everything from the Chiefs, the Chicago Bulls and Chicago’s United Center to a 6 million-square-foot underground storage facility and apartment complexes across the region.
The Kauffman Family
Founder: Ewing Kauffman (1916-1993)
Roots: Ewing Kauffman was a pharmaceutical salesman who left his previous employer to start his own company, Marion Laboratories. Marion specialized in bringing drugs to market that other companies had discovered but didn’t market. In 1969, Ewing Kauffman founded the Kansas City Royals.
Heirs: Daughter Julia Irene Kauffman is a major arts booster and philanthropist in the city and is on the Royals’ board.
Landmarks: The iconic and irreplaceable home to the Royals is named for Kauffman, as is the city’s prominent performing arts venue. Kauffman and his wife are buried in a two-acre botanical garden off Country Club Plaza.
The Kemper Family
Founder: William Thornton Kemper Sr. (1866-1938)
Roots: William Thornton Kemper started off in banking but quickly diversified his holdings into railroads, oil and grain. Sons R. Crosby Kemper and James M. Kemper were likewise banking titans and arts patrons.
Heirs: The Kempers remain in control of two large regional banks, Commerce and UMB — UMB is now under its sixth Kemper. Actress Ellie Kemper is the great-great granddaughter of William Thornton Kemper Sr. His children established banks and arts philanthropy projects in St. Louis.
Landmarks: Kemper Arena (now Hy-Vee Arena) in the West Bottoms was named for R. Crosby Kemper, and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is named for his son.