• US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos married Amway heir Dick DeVos in 1979.
• Both hailed from wealthy, powerful Michigan families, and shared similar conservative Christian values.
The couple went on to become massively influential in Michigan state politics.
• Forbes reported the net worth of the family – including Betsy Devos’ father-in-law Richard and his other children – is around $US5.4 billion.
Business Insider’s Tanza Loudenback reported the couple is likely worth around $US1.3 billion.
In 1979, 21-year-old Betsy Prince tied the knot with 23-year-old Amway heir Dick DeVos.
The couple shares a Dutch ancestry, conservative Christian values, and a wealthy upbringing. Together, they became one of the most powerful political entities in Michigan.
“It almost brings to mind the old monarchies of Europe where they would intermarry,” Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics told Politico.
It would also propel Betsy DeVos to the White House. US President Donald Trump brought her on board as Secretary of Education,largely owing to her longtime advocacy for charter schools.
The billionaire couple is no stranger to controversy. Secretary DeVos has been criticised for everything from her comments about historically black colleges to her involvement with a controversial “brain training company.” Meanwhile, Amway – which Dick ran as CEO from 1993 to 2002 – has long been likened to a pyramid scheme.
Over the course of their 39-year marriage, Betsy and Dick DeVos have raised four children, donated large sums to the betterment of western Michigan, and used their immense wealth to reshape politics according to their worldview.
Here’s a look at their relationship:
The current Secretary of Education met her husband sometime around 1976, Politico reported. They dated while she was a student at Calvin College, a Christian college in Grand Rapids.
He’d often swing by campus in his Mercedes and pick her up, The Atlantic reported.
In his book “Rediscovering American Values,” Dick DeVos said the couple’s relationship was “based on our honest sharing of love, faith, and commitment.” He dedicated his book to the couple’s four children and to his wife, “whom I love with all my heart.”
The pair wed in 1979. Dick wrote of marrying “beautiful Betsy Prince of Holland, Michigan, who shared my Dutch heritage as well as my Christian commitment.”
Those weren’t the only things the couple had in common. Betsy’s father Ed Prince was a wealthy manufacturer, who donated a lot of money to conservative causes…
… and Dick’s dad Richard DeVos co-founded Amway in 1959. As of 2016, the private, multi-level marketing company had a revenue of $US8.8 billion. Richard, who is now 91, also owns the Orlando Magic and is a major Republican donor.
After they were married, the pair didn’t go far. According to “Blackwater” author Jeremy Scahill, the couple kept close to home. At one point, they lived just down the street from the Princes.
They went on to have four children — Rick, Elissa, Andrea, and Ryan. None of the Education Secretary’s children attended public school. According to Quartz, Rick and Ryan attended Grand Rapids Christian High School for a tuition of $US10,000 a year, while Elissa and Andrea were home-schooled.
The pair also belongs to the DeVos Family Council. Founded by Richard DeVos, the group consists of his children and their spouses. The council has its own constitution and meets four times a year. Grandchildren are formally inducted at the age of 16, but don’t get to vote till they’re 25.
The senior DeVos wrote in his book “Simply Rich” that the council’s purpose is to figure out “how the family will work together in managing our shared financial interests and our philanthropy.”
The couple primarily resides in a $US4 million home in Ada, Michigan. They also own properties in Grand Rapids, Florida, and a lake house in Holland, Michigan. Mansion Global reported their DeVos’ assets are held “under several limited liability companies.”
To ensure a “frictionless” life for the family, their properties are all managed by the RDV Corporation, Politico reported. RDV takes care of maintenance, pays the DeVos employees, and also manages the family’s investments.
The job description for a RDV household administrative assistant including helping a teenager pack and organise their closet, as well as ensuring doors “are well-oiled to avoid squeaking” and helping to suggest, purchase, and wrap Christmas presents.
Like their parents, DeVos’ went on to become incredibly influential in Michigan. They have thrown money into high schools, convention centres, colleges, children’s hospitals, and performance halls — many of which bear their name, The Atlantic reported. They also co-own a wine bar.
They have also played a huge role in Michigan politics for years. Betsy is often described as “the political junkie in the relationship,” as Mother Jones put it. The family has poured huge sums into causes like advocating for charter schools and fighting organised labour.
While Betsy might be the more political partner, Dick was the one who ran for governor of the state in 2006. His platform focused on Michigan’s lagging economy. He lost by 14 points. The defeat did not sway the couple from politics, however.
“I think that loss really solidified the idea in the DeVoses’ minds that the real way to get what you want is to be behind the scenes,” Demas told Politico. Richard Czuba, owner of bipartisan Michigan polling firm Glengariff Group, told Politico that the family effectively used soft money to become “a shadow state party.”