Family Business Magazine Blog

Even if equality is among your most important family values, it’s wise to think twice before finalizing plans for 50:50 ownership of your family business. The family members who start off as harmonious partners may well end up as legal adversaries.

Sadly, court records contain many examples of such family feuds. One of the most recent involves Heidelberg Distributing Company of Moraine, Ohio, among the largest beer distributorships in the Midwest. A third-generation brother and sister who are equal owners of the company are waging a legal battle that reached the Ohio First District Court of Appeals last year.

The first salvo was fired two years earlier. In December 2014, Albert Vontz III sued his sister, Carol Miller, claiming that Miller and her family had improperly taken control of the company.

Vontz holds the title of co-chairman and president at Heidelberg. Carol Miller’s husband, Vail Miller Sr., headed the company for more than 40 years and is now the co-chairman and secretary. Their son, Vail Miller Jr., is the current CEO. Other members of the Miller family hold executive positions in the business. Carol Miller and her husband, as well as their three children, all serve on the board; Vontz...Read more

Free Feature Article

The Gordon Flesch Company began its transition to third-generation management in 2016. After an abrupt change from the first to the second generation, the family is taking a deliberate approach this time.

Tom Flesch, CEO of Gordon Flesch Company in Madison, Wis., chuckles as he describes his ascent to the presidency of the office equipment dealer in 1986. "My dad pretty much just did it one day," Tom says. "He told my brother John and a few others in the company a week before he announced it at a board meeting. It was very old-school. Back then, you made a decision and moved forward."

Contrast that style with the first steps taken to move Tom's two sons, Patrick and Mark Flesch, onto the path to top management last year. After some ten years in the sales ranks, the two were named regional sales VPs in a restructuring that divided between them responsibility for the sales territories the company serves. There's no firm date for the next moves in the company's management transition plan.

"This was the first year for them at the vice president level," Tom explains. "They'll be there for a while, and we'll figure out the next step up the ladder. As they move up, we'll move over a little bit to let them occupy that rung. The transition will take care of itself that way."

Currently, Tom, 64, and...Read more

Feature Video

Peter Begalla and EY's Charlie Carr discuss strategies to engage the next generation in the family business.