Reverse succession - the process by which the next generation comes into a family business by setting up their own very successful company - is arguably the best way of ensuring family entrepreneurial talent straddles generations.
But it isn’t easy, and, even with the resources of a family business behind those thinking of going out on their own, failure is a real possibility. Here’s three reverse succession specialists - although none of them have actually gone back directly into the family business - yet.
The second son of Li Ka-Shing, arguably Hong Kong’s most successful entrepreneur, Richard Li is a serial entrepreneur of some stature. He’s set up various successful companies, with the best known being the Hong Kong based PCCW, the holding company for the HKT Group, an information and communications technology company.
PCCW is huge - it employs around 20,000 people and has operations in most countries around the world. Richard, 49, is chairman. PCCW may be closely connected to Li Ka-Shing’s vast business empire, but a lot of its success is down to Richard’s entrepreneurial acumen. Victor, the eldest son of Li Ka-Shing, might be the heir apparent, but Richard has certainly done his bit to be an impressive second generation pretender to the throne.
The second daughter of the media mogul Rupert Murdoch has a pretty good claim on the Murdoch business empire when it comes to her own successful business career. Elisabeth launched Shine, a TV production company, in 2001, after working for British Sky Broadcasting. Shine made TV hits like MasterChef and The Biggest Loser, and ten years later was sold to the Murdoch owned News Corp for $415 million.
OK, some have said the deal is a blatant case of nepotism, but few would dispute Elisabeth’s business sassiness in the media world. Still not yet 50, the twice divorced Elisabeth may not directly work for her father’s empire, unlike her two brothers, but she’s placed a formidable marker down to be her father’s successor - of course, that’s if she wants the job…
Being born with a well-known billion dollar family name isn’t always easy, especially if that name happens to be Getty. Mark Getty is the grandson of J. Paul Getty, who was reputed to be the richest American alive in the 1950s through his oil company, Getty Oil. His son and Mark’s father John Paul Getty often struggled with the obligations made on him through his inheritance and name. Yet, the Getty name has been no hinderance to Mark’s career, indeed, it has been a virtue.
He, along with business partner Jonathan Klein, established Getty Images, which has become a hugely successful stock photo library, used by most publishing companies around the world. Sold to a private equity group in 2008, Mark still is chairman. Of course, for Mark there is no family business to reverse succession into - the family’s interest in Getty Oil has long since gone. Nevertheless, his success is a good example of “multiple-family entrepreneurship” - and if there was a family business needing a successor, Mark’s skills would be very welcomed.