N&Q: Family office deals; a novel way to split the family business/fortune; and the importance of the non-family CEO

Larry Ellison’s family office takes stake in huge tech fund

Larry Ellison, the world’s seventh wealthiest individual, according to Forbes, is to invest money in a tech fund set up by fellow billionaire, the Japanese entrepreneur, Masayoshi Son and the founder of the internet group, SoftBank. Reports say Ellison’s family office (could that be Lawrence Investments, which manages Larry Ellison’s non-Oracle investments?) is investing in SoftBank’s Vision Fund. The fund wants to raise a massive $100 billion to invest in global tech companies.

Also on the prowl for tech businesses is the newly launched family office of Ashok Trivedi, the co-founder of the Indian-based Igate, which was bought by Capgemini last year for $4 billion. Trivedi has set up the Trivedi Family Office, and reports say it’s interested in backing early-stage tech companies, among other asset targets.

 

Using a lottery to split the family business

Here’s a novel way to split the family business for the next generation - do it by lottery. That’s exactly what one of the biggest family businesses in Israel did, as told by Bloomberg. Sammy Ofer, who died in 2011 and at the time was the country’s richest person, had two sons and heirs. The sons agreed to split his vast fortune and businesses by using a simple lottery - picking a ticket out of a hat. Of course, no one was a loser, because Sammy’s fortune was split equally - each ticket was worth the same amount. But what businesses, and for that matter what Picasso, each son would get was determined by the ticket they picked out of the hat. The article goes on say the system appears to have worked when it comes to family unity, with both brothers still good friends, despite the disparity in their fortunes since the split. 



The Seagram fortune and the breakup of the family business

An interesting insight into the Seagram business and its breakup are given by its former co-chairman Charles Bronfman, in an interview with Canadian Business. Seagram was one of the Canada's best-known companies, and family controlled since its founding in 1924. But things unravelled for the company after a failed merger in 2000 and its assets have since been acquired by the likes of Coca-Cola and other big drinks groups. Bronfman doesn’t go into much detail about the demise of his family’s business and is relatively sanguine about the split that ultimately led to its demise, but he does hint that things might have turned out differently if the family had appointed a non-family CEO. “If you have a professional CEO, you’re not subject to the owners’ flights of fancy,” he said.