Legal Blog

Are Multi-generational Family Businesses Primed for Greater Success or Failure?

The Freakonomics Podcast Offers Arguments for and Against “Scionology”

shutterstock_370389383America’s oldest brewery is a family business. Up until 2008, so was the world’s largest brewery.


It isn’t just Yuengling and Anheuser-Busch that have found success as multigenerational family businesses. Companies owned and operated by families comprise roughly a third of the Fortune 500 and include among them names like Wal-Mart, Samsung, Nike, and Volkswagen. To be sure, not every family firm rises to this level of prominence. A typical family business may or may not perform better than its non-family-owned competitors, which begs the question: If keeping the business in the family does not necessarily translate to long-term prosperity, who should take over after the founder?


A recent installment of the Freakonomics podcast offers some insight. The episode, entitled “The Church of ‘Scionology’,” explores the complex and sensitive issue of family business inheritance, taking a close look at the scions tasked with carrying their parents’ and grandparents’ legacies forward. Through interviews with economists and company executives, the episode sheds light on considerations many family business owners face, such as how to choose an heir and how to motivate family member employees. The podcast also touches on why so many owners do not have a succession plan in place, a phenomenon which—according to family firm consultants—is “a. not uncommon, and b. a terrible idea.”


You can access the podcast here.


Once you have listened to the episode, why not check out some of Offit Kurman’s articles about family business? I recommend starting with “Family Business Myths, Debunked.”


And of course, I welcome to you contact me with any family business thoughts or questions you may have.



Michael Mercurio Casual-SmallBusiness attorney and M&A lawyer Michael N. Mercurio serves as outside general counsel on matters related to business law, M&A, and real estate law. As a strategic partner to firm clients, Mr. Mercurio regularly counsels entrepreneurial individuals and assorted entities on all aspects of business and commerce, with a core specialty in mergers and acquisitions—both from the sell side perspective and buy-side perspective.









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