Surely you have heard of the Vanderbilts? For centuries, the name has been synonymous with wealth and pedigree. Let’s find out how its most prominent heir has done with the clan legacy and how much William AV Cecil net worth is.
For almost 130 years, the Biltmore Estate had been home to George Vanderbilt’s family and tourists worldwide. His grandson William AV Cecil, or Bill, ensured the doors would remain open after his death. Read on for a “different” Vanderbilt story and see how wealth got transformed through generations.
The Men of Biltmore
George Washington Vanderbilt was a man ahead of his time, a bit like Elon Musk, not in terms of wealth but for being a thinker and an innovator. He built a dynamo generator that supplied power throughout the house, from the lightbulbs that signal for the staff to the first-ever electric-powered elevator in North Carolina.
Even before building the Biltmore Estate, George had planned for Biltmore to be self-sufficient. He created the perfect environment for livestock and agriculture to thrive on his land.
Bill used his grandfather’s efforts as a base to secure the future of Biltmore Estate. He welcomed tourists not just to earn the cost of maintaining an enormous property but also to promote the beautiful region of Asheville.
But maintaining a 175,000-square feet home in pristine condition for over a century must’ve been expensive. Did the master of Biltmore ever make a profit from turning his family home into a tourist spot?
At the time of his death in 2017, William AV Cecil net worth was estimated at $10.1 billion.
Who Are the Vanderbilts?
Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt
The Vanderbilt family’s legendary wealth began with a $100 loan in 1810. 16-year-old Cornelius received the amount from his mother in exchange for tilling 8 acres of soil. Today, that $100 is the equivalent of only $2,100. A tiny seed that sprouted into a $100 million fortune by the time of his death in 1877.
He was a descendant of Jan Aertson, a Dutch farmer from De Bilt in Utrecht, Netherlands. Aertson moved to New Amsterdam in 1640. There he worked as an indentured servant for a man named Peter Wholfersten for three years to pay for his passage into the country.
Aertson later added “van der Bilt” to his name shortly before marriage. The name translates “of the Bilt” and eventually evolved to a single word, Vanderbilt.
Cornelius used the $100 loan to buy a small boat and start his transport business, ferrying people and all kinds of cargo between Staten Island and Manhattan.
His hard work paid off in more ways than one. Aside from making a decent living, Cornelius was able to meet the ferry entrepreneur, Thomas Gibbons. Working for the man, Cornelius learned the ropes of how to manage and run a big business.
From a small, two-masted sailing boat, Cornelius’ grew his business and became a steamboat entrepreneur. After conquering the waters, Cornelius set his eyes on land and started his railroad empire. This included the New York Central railroad.
Cornelius Vanderbilt net worth when he died in 1877 was an amassed wealth of $100 million, making him the richest man in the country.
Fall of the Vanderbilts
Cornelius’ son, Billy Vanderbilt, took his father’s example and was able to double his inheritance. He successfully became the richest man in the world by 1883, with an estimated net worth of $200 million. Unfortunately, his descendants would squander away all the family’s wealth.
After the civil war, the industrial boom in New York triggered the battle between the wealthiest people, building everything from factories to palace-like houses. This era was known as the Gilded Age.
The Vanderbilt heirs were nothing like the businessman that was the Commodore or his son. The family business dwindled as steamboats were coming out of trend as better modes of transportation were emerging from the boom.
Keeping Up With The 400
Instead of resecuring their holdings, the Vanderbilts made no exemptions and lavished themselves with everything and anything wealthy people during that time were into.
Willie Vanderbilt’s wife built the Petit Chateau so that they could be included in The Four Hundred, a list of New York’s elite, so-called since such is the number of people who could be comfortably accommodated in the ballroom of leading socialite Mrs. Caroline Astor.
Such keeping up with society’s crème de la crème triggered the rest of the elite families to build bigger and more extravagant estates to outdo the others.
But by the 1920s, almost none of these houses would be standing anymore. The once rich people had to auction off their homes to pay taxes and other debts that they owed. They had no choice but to sell after spending all the money they inherited from their self-made, “billionaire” great grandfather.
The houses were demolished to make way for real-estate development. Then by World War II, this family of the wealthiest Americans and property owners was barely making ends meet.
George Washington Vanderbilt
Born on November 14, 1862, George was the eighth child and youngest son of William Henry “Billy” Vanderbilt, the eldest son of Cornelius. Being the youngest, he received a much smaller portion of his father’s wealth, far less than the two eldest sons entrusted with the family fortune.
He was an intellectual who loved books and enjoyed the arts. George was his father’s constant companion, traveling to different countries and the Americas. He worked at the family farm and loved to be close to nature, which is why he looked to Asheville’s majestic scenery when it was time to build his home.
The Biltmore House
The 30,000-acre mansion cost almost $6 million to build in 1895. George consulted the family’s architect to build the french renaissance house with 250 rooms, 34 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms. The grand project required its own brick-making factory and private railway to deliver the materials.
Today, the Biltmore house is still considered the largest private residence in the country, which took over six years of construction.
George consulted two of the best people to build his home. First was the family’s architect, Richard Morris Hunt, who designed many historical structures like the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty and many of New York Fifth Street’s grand mansions during the gilded age.
George also hired Fredrick Law Olmsted, a famous 19th-century landscape designer, to manage the forestry that surrounds the estate.
While making sure to benefit the most from nature, George learned and practiced agriscience and horticulture to protect and properly manage land use. In addition, to make Biltmore self-sustaining, George kept and bred livestock and held back on nothing to care for the forest.
The grand Vanderbilt mansion housed many stories of kindness and generosity by the lord and lady of the house towards the people who worked for them and their neighbors. Many of George and his wife’s philanthropic contributions were towards charity and building the Cathedral of All Souls in Asheville.
George and Edith only had one child, a daughter whom they named Cornelia. She was born on August 22, 1900. At 13, Cornellia became the heiress to the multi-million dollar estate after her father died due to complications after an appendectomy on March 6, 1914.
William AV Cecil
Cornelia married a man from the British aristocracy, John Francis Amherst Cecil, the son of Lord William Cecil, on April 29th, 1924. The couple was blessed with two sons, George Henry Vanderbilt Cecil and William Amherst “Bill” Vanderbilt Cecil.
William was nicknamed Bill as his great grandfather, William Henry Vanderbilt, was nicknamed Billy. He was born on August 17, 1928, as the second and youngest child of Cornelia and John Francis Cecil.
Bill’s life as a child was not revealed to the public. What is known was that Cornelia left Asheville around 1932 only to never return. Bill should be around five years old then. Two years later, she divorced her husband. Cornelia married two more times.
The brothers George and Bill eventually inherited the estate. When the elder Cecil chose the majority of the lands and the farm, Bill was left with a dilapidated old castle that was losing $250,000 every year due to taxation and maintenance costs.
No one believed the mansion could be restored, and Bill was repeatedly advised to abandon it. But the more he was told that he couldn’t do it, Bill’s urge to prove everyone wrong grew stronger.
Bill took over Biltmore in the early 1960s. By 1963, the estate was declared a National Historic Landmark.
Through sheer perseverance and numerous marketing strategies, the Biltmore Estate started to make a profit by 1968. The breakthrough allowed Bill to restore one area at a time. He also added a vineyard and a winery in 1985, despite the protest of the majority of his peers.
The estate also hosts numerous events, exquisite restaurants and hotels, and a gorgeous conservatory.
In 1995, a century after the Biltmore was constructed, the estate’s revenue was hovering at $30 million, thus signaling that Bill was finally making a decent profit.
Every year, the city of Asheville in North Carolina receives over 11 million guests, earning around $2 billion in sales. Biltmore Estate receives more or less 1 million tourists annually.
Had Bill chosen to sell the property in the 60s, it wouldn’t only be the end of George’s legacy. It would also mean ending the century-old connection of Biltmore with Asheville.
Bill Cecil passed away on October 31st, 2017. He was 89 years old. At the time of his death, William AV Cecil net worth was estimated at $10.1 billion. He is survived by his wife and two children, Bill Jr and Dini, who have taken the role of host to the great Vanderbilt mansion.
William AV Cecil Net Worth – Frequently Asked Questions
How Much is William AV Cecil Net Worth?
William AV Cecil net worth was estimated at $10.1 billion. The elder Cecil passed away in 2017, entrusting a completely revitalized Biltmore Estate to the next generation.
How Much is Biltmore Estate Worth?
The estimated value of the entire Biltmore Estate is $344 million. The sum includes Biltmore’s latest additions; the restaurants, hotels, outbuildings, and private residences. Just like Joseph Safra’s home in Brazil, Biltmore is one of the biggest houses in the world.
Who Owns Biltmore Estate Now?
The ownership of Biltmore Estate had been passed down to Bill Cecil’s two children, William “Bill” Jr, and Diana “Dini” Pickering. Bill Jr currently serves as President and CEO of The Biltmore Company.
William AV Cecil Net Worth – Final Thoughts
Cornelius Vanderbilt once told his son, Billy, that “any fool can make money, but it takes a thinking man to hold on to it.” It is also said that when the Vanderbilts held a reunion in 1973, there wasn’t a single millionaire in the 100 family members that attended the gathering.
George Washington Vanderbilt’s family branch did a far better job managing their fortune, but tough times will come and rain on everyone’s parade. It was a fortunate thing that Biltmore was close to Bill’s heart. He took the impossible task of breathing life back into his grandfather’s home and succeeded by the strength of his will.
Because of these men of Biltmore, the Vanderbilt story didn’t just end with “squandered wealth.” Their inspiring story and legacy are housed in a magnificent castle, ready to take on the next hundred years.