There’s been lots of talk in the UK press this week about inheritance, in the wake of Nigella Lawson’s decision not to leave her wealth to her kids.
In their coverage of the story, the BBC came up with a piece of research by Economist Nick Bloom which suggests that businesses where the CEO is the oldest son of the founder aren’t likely to be the best:
We looked at 5,000 companies and we found that around a third of medium-sized manufacturing firms were family owned. In about half of them the eldest son was the CEO. They are very badly managed.
Although there are some breweries where the heirs do seem to have a real passion for brewing, what happens if the son just isn’t interested in beer or brewing, or is rubbish at running a business? I was at university with the scion of a great British brewing family. He was the thick, boorish product of a boarding school; prone to shouting homophobic abuse at people for drinking orange juice, reading books, not vomiting enough and so on; and didn’t show very much interest in ale at all, preferring alcopops and pound-a-pint lager, from what I recall. He will almost certainly end up running the family business one day. I shudder to think.
People should learn from the Five Good Emperors of Rome. They chose their heirs from outside the family and trained them from youth. When Marcus Aurelius broke this unwritten rule and handed control over to his son Commodus, the Roman Empire began its long collapse and 2000 years later, we were forced to endure Ridley Scott’s abysmal Gladiator.