This story appears in the September 5, 2017 issue of Forbes. Subscribe
In 2017, a total of 225 firms make it onto our 33rd annual ranking of America’s largest private companies. Taken as a group, these companies have combined revenues of $1.57 trillion, down 3% from last year, and employ 4.7 million people, up from 4.5 million in 2016.
The top of the 2017 is full of familiar faces. Cargill and Koch Industrieshave a lock on the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. Cargill sits at top of the list for the 10th consecutive year. Revenues grew a modest 2% in 2017 to $109.7 billion. Cargill has missed the No. 1 rank only twice since the first private companies list was published in 1985. Koch Industries comes it at No. 2. Revenues for this year’s list don’t reflect the acquisition of Guardian Industries (ranked No. 67 last year’s private companies list.) Koch Industries acquired the Michigan-based glass company in February 2017.
Rounding out the top 5 are grocery chain Albertsons (No. 3) and two of the three accounting firms on the list. Deloitte is ranked fourth and PricewaterhouseCoopers is fifth. Albertsons filed for an IPO in 2015, a few months after it completed its acquisition of publicly-tradedSafeway SWY +0%, but has put those plans on hold.
Mars jumps up one to No. 6. The Virginia-based company, best known for its candy business, announced in January that it would acquire animal hospital chain VCA in a deal worth $9.1 billion. When this deal is complete, the company’s pet care business will make up over 50% of revenues. Mars owns pet brands such as Pedigree, Wiskas and Royal Canin.
Dell DELL +0% is the highest ranked company to drop off the list. Last year the Texas-based computer company was ranked fourth. Dell completed its merger with EMC EMC +0% Corporation in September 2016 and began trading as Dell Technologies DVMT +0.11%.
Along with Dell, there are eight other companies from the 2016 list that didn’t qualify this year. Trucking company Schneider National went public via an initial public offering in April 2017. International Data Group , the media company behind technology magazines such as PCWolrd and MacWorld, was bought by a Chinese conglomerate earlier this year. Companies don’t qualify for the list for a few reasons; revenues drop below $2 billion, the company is no longer private or foreign ownership.
Uber debuts on the list at No. 52, one of 11 newcomers to the list. It’s the first tech unicorn to rank on our private company list. FacebookFB +0.61% was a contender for this list back in 2010 but its revenues didn’t cross the $2 billion threshold while it was still a private company. The ride-sharing company’s potential IPO seems uncertain considering the recent scandals. CEO Travis Kalanick announced in June that he was taking an indefinite leave of absence.
In addition to Uber, notable newcomers include home security company ADT ADT +0% (No. 114) and restaurant chain Red Lobster (No. 183).
The 2017 list of largest private companies includes only firms with revenue greater than $2 billion. Revenues are through the end of the most recent fiscal year. Most of the companies on our list have no plans to change their private status. Many businesses like the freedom from quarterly earnings expectations and reduced obligations to Sarbanes-Oxley reporting requirements. (Private companies with publicly traded debt must file financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission.)
In addition to our $2 billion revenue requirement, the companies on our list have either too few shareholders to be required to file financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission, or have shares whose ownership is restricted to some group, such as employees or family members. We exclude foreign companies, companies that don’t pay income tax (like Mohegan Tribal Gaming Authority), mutually owned companies (like State Farm Insurance), cooperatives (like Central Grocers), companies with fewer than 100 employees, and companies that are more than 50% owned by another public, private or foreign company. We also leave out companies whose primary business is auto dealerships or real estate investment and/or management. Whenever possible, our revenue figures for each company exclude sales of publicly traded subsidiaries.
Our data sources include voluntary disclosures by companies, Securities and Exchange Commission filing, and estimates from Forbes researchers and outside sources.