In this issue
Recently, I was invited to participate in the annual shareholders’ meeting of a large, third-generation European company. The high point of the meeting was the appearance of the founder’s wife, a remarkably clear-headed, charismatic woman of 95. From her wheelchair, she addressed the group of 36 descendants and their spouses in one of the most moving talks I have ever heard.
Alvin and Heidi Toffler appear to be Newt Gingrich’s favorite futurists. The Republican Speaker of the House quotes their books frequently and says he often seeks their counsel. They have been highly visible as speakers on the same platforms with the Georgia Congressman in recent months.
It’s amazing. Most successful family business owners toil their entire lives to build the business and the family’s wealth. Yet the day they die is a big payday for the IRS. Far too many business families overpay their estate tax. They give away money they could have kept had they made changes in their estate plans.
It happens more often than you think. A relative knowingly divulges confidential information to a competitor. A son or daughter leaves the firm, on good terms or bad, and starts a competing company right down the street. In many cases, family businesses have been harmed by both actions. Invariably, the owners assumed that information shared with the children or other relatives was confidential. Moreover, they believed that family members would never act against the best interest of the company.