Focus on World Family Business Leaders | Charlene de Carvalho Heineken

This week the Family Business Office, for its eleventh edition of Focus On World Business Leaders, brings you Charlene de Carvalho Heineken, executive director and fourth generation heir of the world acclaimed Heineken Brewery.

Charlene is estimated to be the richest woman in the UK, with an estimated net worth of £11.1 billion. Charlene de Carvalho-Heineken was born on 30 June 1954 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, as the only child to Freddy Heineken and Lucille Cummins. Her father was a Dutch industrialist and her mother was an American who belonged to a family of bourbon whiskey distillers.

Charlene was thrown into the deep end, as one might say, that one life ended and another began the day that Charlene de Carvalho buried her father. It was a grey day in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in January 2002 when the London housewife and mother of five bid goodbye to Freddy Heineken. Charlene loathed fanfare as much as her father, a visionary businessman who had transformed a modest Dutch brewery into the world’s third-largest brewer. So this was a simple ceremony in an ordinary cemetery, with no funeral preceding it, attended only by Freddy’s secretary and his immediate family: Freddy’s wife, Lucille; his son-in-law, Michel; and 47-year-old Charlene.

Until her father’s passing, Charlene had no money to her name except a single share of Heineken stock—then worth 25.60 euros, or $32—that her father had given her. Now, as his only child and the sole heir to the Heineken fortune, she was inheriting about 100 million shares, equal to one-quarter of the company’s total stock outstanding. This 25% stake came with voting control, meaning that her single vote outweighed the votes of other investors on any board matter. Charlene had not thought much about her new responsibilities until that dreary morning at the cemetery. As she left her father’s grave, her husband put her on the spot. “Charlene, you have to make a decision within 10 days if you want to inherit the role that your father played.”

A graduate of Leiden University, Charlene is a well-educated lady. She has a law degree and is also adept in business management. Heineken is hard working, determined, and disciplined and these qualities make her one of the top businesswomen across the globe.

Heineken became the agency’s co-owner after the death of her father, Freddy Heineken, in 2002. Freddy himself had inherited Heineken International’s assets from his grandfather, Gerard Adriaan Heineken and had served as the CEO and chairman of the company between 1971 and 1989.

Heineken International is known for its production of local, regional, and international specialty beers and ciders. Having over 73,000 employers, it is the second largest brewer in the world. The agency has over 170 premium brands in around 70 countries.

( All Statistical information presented in this blog has been obtained from extracts of online articles from and

At the Family Business Office we can offer you assistance in dealing with family business succession planning issues through incentives supporting advisory and mediation services. Contact us today on