Succession Planning Tips for Your Business and Your Family

Last week’s post addressed the challenge of transferring an enterprise’s leadership to a successor, whether that enterprise is a business, a royal family, or any family. I gave Queen Elizabeth high marks for doing a better job than Logan Roy of the HBO series “Succession.” I also praised Bernard Arnault (“the world’s richest person”) for his thoughtful process “to pass on the baton, dividing up key roles in the LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton empire among his five children.” (Andrew Ross Sorkin, “Family Drama,” The New York Times DealBook Newsletter, May 27, 2023.)

Now that HBO has aired the final episode of “Succession,” author Sorkin predicts that the search is on for the next family succession drama. Many speculate that the fictional Logan Roy was modeled after Rupert Murdoch. Sorkin suggests the aforementioned Arnault dynasty as a likely candidate for the next TV succession drama. He pictures a season finale “inspired by the glitzy reopening of Tiffany after LVMH bought the brand in a turbulent acquisition.” (See last week’s post where I hailed Arnault’s succession process as a role model approach.)

Per Sorkin, other real-life family dramas that could provide the needed dirt for a succession feud include:

  • •The Sacklers: Owners of Purdue Pharma which produced the painkiller OxyContin, who fell from grace for their role in the opioid crisis, even having the Sackler name stripped from a wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
  • The Maras: Owners of the New York Giants, whose split into two factions reached the point that a Venetian blind was installed to divide their stadium luxury suite.
  • The Safras: One of the world’s richest bankers, Joseph Safra cut out son Alberto from his Will, resulting in Alberto now suing his two brothers and his mother.
  • The Kushners: Real estate mogul Charles Kushner’s feud with his brother-in-law landed him in jail, while son Jared married Ivanka Trump and “then raised billions from the Saudis,” and son Joshua married a supermodel.

Speaking to the challenge of getting succession right, in his article “How to Do Succession Better Than Logan Roy,” Miles Nadal offers these tips to help the business leader pave the way:

  • Accept that a transition is inevitable.
  • There are no shortcuts; expect it to take at least three to five years.
  • Identify talent with a different skillset from the founder, as it’s different to maintain an empire than to create it.
  • Begin detaching and delegating.
  • Resist the temptation to intervene.
  • Let them fail; the learning process from solving problems is more valuable than being rescued and right.
  • Put more energy into strengthening the company culture than into teaching the nuts and bolts of running the business. (Remember, “culture eats strategy for breakfast” from my post of April 4th.

In closing, as an estate planner committed to not only helping businesses successfully transition but also helping families do the same, I submit that these same principles apply to every family. As family consultant Matt Wesley teaches, there comes a time when the patriarch and matriarch need to move from being quarterback to being coach.

Marvin E. Blum

Marvin Blum pays homage to Bernard Arnault, owner of Tiffany & Co. and other luxury brands, for Arnault’s thoughtful approach to succession planning.