One thing a family business hates - a lawsuit from a family member

Bill Marriott faced a lawsuit from his son, John Marriott III Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage / Getty Images

Bill Marriott faced a lawsuit from his son, John Marriott III Photo by Jemal Countess/WireImage / Getty Images

Serious disputes among family owners of businesses happen more than most of them would care to say. But, thankfully, most never become public and the business - and the family behind it - look as solid as ever to the general public. But occasionally they leak out like this - a lawsuit filed recently by a third-generation member of one of America’s biggest family-owned companies, Marriott.

John Marriott III, the son of the Bill Marriott, the executive chairman of Marriott International, one of the biggest hotel groups in the world, has filed a lawsuit against his father, according to US media reports.

John has alleged his father “disowned him, cut him off from his trust fund, forced him out of the family business, and is attempting to drive him into financial ruin”, according to the Washingtonian.

The article says the lawsuit also involves John’s uncle, Richard Marriott, as a defendant. Apparently, says the reports, brothers Bill and Richard have control of the trust established by their parents J. Willard and Alice Marriott, the founders of the Marriott. “By keeping him from his rightful share of the family fortune, John alleges that his father and uncle are in breach of their fiduciary duty,” the article says.

John says in the Washingtonian: “Since the divorce, my dad has tried to take away everything that I’ve earned and everything that my grandparents left for me, basically to punish me for not maintaining the image of the perfect Mormon family.” The lawsuit details much more, including how John was allegedly ruled out for a top position in the family business.

Obviously, there are two sides of the story, and Bill and Richard have yet to respond, says the article. But something has gone wrong within the management of the family part of the family business if John's lawsuit is to be believed.

Or maybe there’s something in the old adage - from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations?