In this issue
For many family business owners, debt is a four-letter word that’s synonymous with risk, vulnerability and outside control.
Most multigenerational family companies eventually will buy out a family shareholder, or at least redeem some stock held by a family member. Sometimes it’s the culmination of a planned transition (a retirement), but often it’s emotionally fraught (a payout to heirs after a shareholder’s death or a dispute that culminates in someone’s exit). No matter the circumstances, a disagreement over the price can turn a good situation bad, or make a bad situation worse.
The influential founder and chair of a multibillion-dollar family company suddenly fell ill. The founder and chair had worked closely with a non-family CEO on a day-to-day basis. Financial performance was deteriorating. The board was concerned about the future of the business and recommended replacing the CEO.
Family business feuds capture the public imagination. Last year, HBO introduced an original series, Succession, that centered on a quarreling fictional family who control an international media empire. In real life, disagreements in prominent business families often make the front page of the newspaper.
The year was 1982. After an antitrust lawsuit that had dragged on for eight years, the U.S. Department of Justice mandated that AT&T Corp. end its vertically integrated monopoly on telephone service in the United States and Canada. For most Americans, the breakup of Ma Bell meant confusing choices and even more confusing bills.
In the past year and a half, I lost three outstanding human beings: my beloved father, Paul Uhlmann, my dear father-in-law, Milton Rock — both patriarchs of our family businesses — and then in April, a close family friend and my brother’s father-in-law, Henry Bloch of H&R Block. All three were in their late 90s.
Jeremy Kanter joined his family business, Cincinnati-based Rookwood Properties, soon after graduating from the University of Cincinnati. Lisa Wojcik Kiser worked elsewhere before joining her family firm, Beacon Adhesives, based in Mount Vernon, N.Y.
Generation of family ownership: Second. My father and three brothers started the business, and my brother Britt is our biggest distributor.
The Business: David G. Yuengling Sr. left Germany in 1823 with a plan to start a brewery in the United States. He settled in Pottsville, Pa., a coal-mining community, and got to work. The company, launched in 1829 as the Eagle Brewery, produced two styles of beer: a dark porter and the lighter Lord Chesterfield Ale, which are still brewed by Yuengling’s descendants today.