The Family Office Organisation has just released the 3rd Edition of "The 3300 Global Family Office Database 2008", with 1800 entries from the USA and 1240 from Europe.
The world's ultra-rich families have established these 'Family Offices' to ensure that their wealth is preserved for future generations. The annual cost to manage a Family Office can exceed $2 million. However, assets - under-management would normally exceed $500 million and well into the Billions.
Family Offices started to evolve in the late 1800s - early 1900s on the sale of major family businesses during the industrial revolution. Instead of dividing the proceeds to the family siblings at that time. European aristocratic families had similar set-ups, called Estate Offices; many are still in existence to this day. However at that time, as now, most European families were predominately major land owners.
Family Offices do not invest in the kind of retail financial products one finds on the High-Street. Like financial institutions, they invest in "High-Risk / High Return" investments and tend to retain a mixed portfolio of investments, primarily in alternative investments such as Hedge Funds, Private Equity, Bonds, Equities, Commodities (such as gold), Futures & Options and Currency Trading to justify a higher rate of return. Real estate investments and shareholdings will of course remain a key part of their portfolio.
Since 1989, The Family Office Organisation has researched the world's ultra-rich families in depth. Since 2005, this research has been more keenly focused on Family Offices for the benefit of financial institutions and fund managers across the globe.