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The Top 10 family business issues in 2016

Politically, 2016 has been a rollercoaster year with Britain voting to leave the European Union and Donald Trump becoming the world’s most powerful (family business) leader. Take a look at the top 10 family business themes of 2016 as selected (in no particular order) by CampdenFB’s editorial team.

Politically, 2016 has been a rollercoaster year with Britain voting to leave the European Union and Donald Trump becoming the world’s most powerful (family business) leader. Away from politics, in 2016 many family enterprises have been wrangling with the ever-present challenge of succession or exploring artificial intelligence, while we farewell Mars family patriarch Forrest E. Mars Jr. Take a look at the top 10 family business themes of 2016 as selected (in no particular order) by CampdenFB’s editorial team.


The mother of all successions?

It was the biggest (family business) story of the year. CampdenFB asked our global community of family business leaders, trusted advisers, and academics for their reactions to Donald Trump (right), the billionaire second-generation family business patriarch, being elected as the 45th president of the United States. Your view: Infrastructure upgrades, tax cuts, ditching the Obama administration’s plans to expand and raise the death and transfer tax on family-owned small businesses, and a lack of impact on investments were highly likely.


Succession Part II: Sticky-baton syndrome

National Amusements, which controls US media businesses CBS and Viacom, has become the poster boy for flawed succession. In 2016 nonagenarian chairman Sumner Redstone (left) unleashed a very public succession battle at Viacom between its non-family chief executive and his daughter, Shari, for the chairman’s role which eventually led to the removal of the chief executive and five board members. He also started, then three months later, axed plans to merge CBS and Viacom, all the while defending his mental capacity in embarrassing detail in Los Angeles Superior Court as his former carer and daughter fight over who should look after him.


Governance: Knudstorp shifts sideways at Lego

While the removal of Tata chairman Cyrus Mistry, was an example of how governance can go spectacularly wrong, the Danish family owners of the $5 billion Lego Group appointed the non-family executive who quadrupled revenue in less than 10 years to a new effort to develop the long-term potential of the brand. Jørgen Vig Knudstorp (right), chief executive and president since 2004, will chair the new entity, Lego Brand Group, in May 2017 in partnership with deputy chairman Thomas Kirk Kristiansen (second right), fourth generation owner of the Lego Group.


Wealth & Purpose: Impact investing cometh (just don’t call it philanthropy!)

There have been innumerable debates about whether impact investing is philanthropy or not, but there can be no debate about the growing public consciousness around the phenomenon. 2016 was the year impact investing became big, with a remarkable 62% of family offices are now active or expect to be active in impact investing, the new Global Family Office Report by Campden Wealth in partnership with UBS reveals. Even the 30% of family office principals surveyed who were not active now said this was likely to change in the future.


Innovation: AI to the FB

The year 2016 was when many of the world’s largest family businesses got serious about artificial intelligence. From BMW and Toyota licensing technology from driver data gathering firm Nauto, to Toyota’s creation of its entrance into the personal robotics market with a 10cm high ‘communication partner’ - 'Kirobo Mini', and Samsung Electronics interest in virtual personal assistants via its acquisition of Viv Labs, the top families are looking to the future.


The mega-family merger: ‘Mega-brew

From Mars buying back its stake in Wrigleys from Warren Buffett, to JAB Holdings acquisition blitz which included buying the US-based doughnut and coffee company Krispy Kreme for $1.3 billion. But the continuing story of 2016 was the $100 billion-plus ‘megabrew’ merger of family-controlled brewer AB InBev takeover of rival SABMiller, paving the way for the third-largest merger in corporate history.


Next-generation rising star: Alexandre Arnault

Alexandre Arnault, son of LVMH founder, Bernard Arnault is to be the joint chief executive of luxury German luggage maker RIMOWA. The 24-year-old has been promoted to the position after he helped the world’s largest luxury group by sales acquire the third-generation family business – the first German ‘maison’ to be added to the French group.


Fall from grace: Haijin Group

Two years after his daughter, Hyun-ah (Heather) Cho, gained international notoriety over her ‘nut rage’ incident when she insisted a Korean Airlines return to the dock after a steward served her nuts in a bag rather than on a plate, Cho Yang-ho, the chairman of South Korean transportation conglomerate Hanjin Shipping, was forced to declare the world's seventh largest shipping firm bankrupt. Cho has also been accused of donating funds in exchange for political favours to a foundation connected to impeached South Korean president Park Geun-hye.


Damage limitation: Samsung Electronics

Despite pushing the boundaries in pursuit of artificial intelligence, Samsung Electronics’ value dropped $7 billion in September amid reports that batteries in its new flagship device have exploded.

The Suwon-headquartered group had in turn issued an unprecedented recall of all of its newest Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.

Has Samsung next-generation heir Lee Jae Yong joined the board of Samsung Electronics– the embattled arm of the family-controlled conglomerate – to help steady the ship?


Passing icon: Forrest E. Mars Jr

Milky Ways, Snickers, M&Ms, Whiskas, and Pedigree are known around the world but the man credited with that global expansion was a mystery, and that was just the way he liked it.

“Privacy at times today seems a relic of the non-media past,” Forrest E Mars Jr (right) told Duke University business majors. It “allows us to do the very best we can… without being concerned with self-aggrandisement.”




Think we’ve missed something off? Feel free to send suggestions, additions, and exultations to: We’ll include them in our honourable mentions section.

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