September/October 2013

In this issue

  • Wealth planning for families with illiquid assets

    Wealthy business owners with mostly illiquid assets have many wealth planning opportunities that are unavailable to other families. They also face significant challenges for the management and preservation of their wealth, particularly if their assets become liabilities.

    Business owners often underestimate their family’s illiquidity risks. To understand some of the risks, it can be instructive for owners of private businesses to consider the following questions:

    Family firms must learn to manage concurrency

    A fourth-generation family business grappled with the definition of family ownership for many years. They struggled with whether to limit ownership to blood relatives and what to do with former spouses after a divorce. They wanted to appropriately restrict ownership to protect their enterprise, yet they also wanted to promote a spirit of inclusiveness.

    Building a burger empire together

    When Jerry Murrell’s two oldest boys, Jim and Matt, spurned college, Jerry brokered a deal with the two teens: The family would use the cash collected for the boys’ college education to open a hamburger shop that the boys would then run.

    That agreement, made 27 years ago, spawned a company —Five Guys Burgers and Fries—that now sits among the restaurant industry’s largest family-owned enterprises.

    A fast-growing father-son partnership

    As a young man in his 20s, Keith Tillage was an entrepreneur in search of a business. Not content with a rising career in corporate America, he wanted to build his own company. He just didn’t know what kind of company.

    Generation 6's accidental jeweler

    Kris Cornwell planned to be a teacher, not a jeweler. Cornwell Jewelers, her family’s Athens, Ohio, jewelry store—founded in 1832—was always in the background of her life, but it wasn’t until her parents begged her to take over that she became the sixth generation to run Cornwell Jewelers.

    “Just try it for six months,” suggested her mother, Connie. That was in 1994.

  • September/October 2013 Openers

    On Feb. 1, 2013, E. Ritter & Co., a fifth-generation company based in northeastern Arkansas, took a further step toward professionalizing its board in adopting a Director Qualification and Nomination Policy.

  • Reality bites

    Although I am not a fan of reality TV shows, my son Tom coaxed me into watching a favorite of his—Pawn Stars, a hugely popular American reality show on the History Channel. Pawn Stars, which takes place in Las Vegas, stars the Harrison family, who run the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop. It basically is a 24-hour family business led by patriarch Richard Harrison; it has been operating for 24 years.

  • Parent-child ventures

    Most multigenerational enterprises we feature in Family Business are companies that are being passed on from parents to children. In this issue, we present the stories of two companies that were started by two generations working in tandem.

    Five Guys, the national hamburger chain with annual sales of nearly $1.1 billion, was founded in 1986 by Jerry Murrell and his two eldest sons. His three younger sons joined the business as well, and all of the Murrells run the company as a team.

  • A new era at Carlson

    This past May, Marilyn Carlson Nelson retired as board chair of Carlson, the global hospitality and travel company headquartered in Minneapolis and one of the world’s largest privately owned companies. Marilyn, 75, the daughter of legendary company founder Curt Carlson, was succeeded by her daughter, Diana Nelson.

    Less than a year earlier, in August 2012, the company named Trudy Rautio as its president and CEO. Rautio, 59, has been with the company for 15 years.

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