Family Wars

Family Wars

Classic Conflicts in Family Business and How to Deal with Them

Kogan Page, 2008




  • Applicable


The TV show Dallas intrigued audiences worldwide. It was a sensational hit because it centered on a rich family, and dealt with scandalous, sinister themes, such as love, hate, jealousy, rivalry, wealth and revenge. However, according to authors Grant Gordon and Nigel Nicholson, these issues are not purely the fabrication of a Hollywood studio, but often take center stage in real-life family businesses. Gordon and Nicholson examine why some family businesses turn schizoid or malignant. They provide numerous shocking cautionary tales of warring families. From wide-ranging fictitious stories, including Hamlet and The Lion King, to infamous family boardroom battles at firms such as the Bata Shoe Company, the Seagram Corporation and Koch Industries, each account teaches a powerful lesson. The authors also proffer recommendations on how relatives can amicably resolve ownership, management or control differences concerning their family firms. getAbstract believes that anyone who is involved with a family business, even those who are not currently at each other’s throats, can benefit by reading this insightful, instructive book. Forewarned is forearmed.


All in the Family

Family businesses are the vertebrae of the global financial system, dominating the economies of the vast majority of nations. The roots of family business are truly ancient. Since the dawning of the earliest commercial activities, family firms have been a vital mainstay of commerce. Many family businesses last a long time: One family-owned Japanese temple-repair business can trace its history back 40 generations to the year 578. A famous family-owned vintner still in operation got its start in Italy in 1141. Many of today’s largest corporations started out as family firms. Some still retain strong family ties, including Samsung (Korea), H&M (Sweden) and BMW (Germany).

When family members work together in firms, they can achieve great things because of their blood ties, solidarity, shared vision and unity of purpose. But when they work against each other, the result can be nothing less than Shakespearean tragedy: Family members conflict bitterly with each other, siblings war viciously among themselves, sons rudely seize power from their fathers and different family branches battle one another. The result? Respected family businesses explode. Some...

About the Authors

Grant Gordon is director general of a nonprofit membership organization that supports family-based businesses in the United Kingdom. Nigel Nicholson, writer and educator, is a professor of organizational behavior at the London Business School.

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