Magazine article Management Today

Unwilling to Take the Baton

Magazine article Management Today

Unwilling to Take the Baton

Article excerpt

Unwilling to take the baton? Clogs to clogs in three generations. That was always how wise Northerners regarded the likely rise and fall of a business dynasty.

But for the likes of Lord Hanson, who recently enjoyed his 69th birthday, 67-year-old Bob Maxwell, 66-year-old Lord Arnold Weinstock, not to mention 73-year-old Tiny Rowland, the question of succession is looming ever larger in their business calculations. Some have heirs pencilled in as successors or learning the trade with that in mind. But, as yet, few of the second generation have shown the sort of devastating business acumen or drive that propelled their fathers to the top.

No doubt some of the sons will be able to carry on the dynasty. It can be done. Look at the way the Sainsbury supermarket chain has flourished under third generation control, while Rocco Forte is trying to be a real chip off the old block at Trusthouse Forte.

Inevitably, however, if not the second, then the third or fourth generation will simply opt for the turf or tennis court rather than hard graft in the boardroom. Where are the succeeding generations of the 19th century industrialists such as the Guest family (better known as Guest Keen and Nettlefold or GKN)? Look no further than Ivor Fox-Strangways Guest, third Viscount Wimborne, a landowning tax exile. There are exceptions. Dominic Cadbury, a fourth generation member of the chocolate family, has proved to be a brilliant chief executive, largely responsible for the revival of the chocolate group.

There is something peculiarly British about this desire by succeeding generations to desert 'trade' for the life of a country gentleman. …

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