The Agnew Family Enterprise

Celebrating 30 Exceptional Families

The Agnew Family Enterprise was founded when Samuel A. Agnew joined the Eastern Railway & Lumber Company in 1903.

Sam would eventually acquire control of “The Eastern” in March 1920. Along with his wife, Kathryn, he went on to amass timber holdings in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California in excess of 70,000 acres plus related manufacturing facilities, along with a commercial cattle ranch operation.

Following Sam’s death in 1965, the next two generations (initially led by Sam and Kathryn’s son, Jay, and his wife, Billie, followed by their children, Dan and Zan, along with Zan’s husband, Dick Lytle) began the process of opportunistically professionalizing operations and diversifying the family’s holdings into commercial real estate and beverage distribution. They eventually formed Columbia Distributing, which would become one of the largest licensed beverage wholesalers in the United States, with annual revenues of over $1 billion.

To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Family Business honored 30 outstanding family businesses:

A. Duda & Sons Inc.

The Biltmore Company

Bush Brothers & Company

The Clemens Family Corporation

Crescent Electric Supply Co. 

Day & Zimmermann

Dot Foods Inc.

The Duchossois Group

E. Ritter & Company

Elkay Manufacturing Company 

Flanagan Foodservice Inc.

Herschend Enterprises

Hussey Seating Company

IDEAL Industries Inc.

Kiolbassa Provision Company

Laird Norton Company

Lloyd Companies

Lundberg Family Farms

Lyles Family Enterprise

MacLean-Fogg Company

Mannington Mills Inc.

Menasha Corporation

Midmark Corporation

Port Blakely

Sheetz Inc.

Vermeer Corporation

Vertex Inc.

W.S. Darley & Co.

Wittwer Hospitality/Boulevard Home

In 2012, the family owners — by then comprising more than 40 family members from the third, fourth and fifth generations — chose to sell the distribution business and collectively reinvest the proceeds to fund today’s Agnew Family Enterprise.

The enterprise now consists of a single-family office with investments in natural resources (including Sam’s legacy timberlands), commercial real estate, private equity and marketable securities; and a family foundation that makes grants to nonprofit organizations in communities in which family owners live and work.

In 2004, under Dan’s leadership and in an effort to become a perpetual “100-year family enterprise,” the family began holding regularly scheduled meetings with an agenda focused on ownership communication, cohesion, clarity and competency. Ultimately, those meetings produced a governance and decision-making system that features the following:

• Documented agreements, including vision, mission and values statements; a restrictive shareholder agreement; and policies governing employment, dividends, redemptions, conflicts of interest and investment.
• An ownership council, consisting of eight family owners.
• An eight-member foundation board of directors.
• An eight-member company board of directors, with at least 50% independent directors.
• A professional management team, led by president and chief investment officer Thomas W. Kim, Ph.D., CAIA.

Article categories: 
September/October 2019

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