Family Capital’s 10 Great Reads for the Summer

OK, you may not wants to take a book away with you on your summer break about family business and wealth, but if you’re so inclined to find out a little bit more about either the world you work in, or give advice on, maybe one of these ten books might interest you. They, of course, can be read at any other time – indeed, a few of the more business-like ones might be better read on some downtime at the office, rather than on holiday.


Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss

By Frances Stroh. Published by HarperCollins

An upfront and personal account of the decline of an American family business dynasty by a fifth generation member of the family, Frances Stroh. Her autobiographical account brings to life the trials and tribulations of a family dealing with the demise of their wealth and influence in an often moving way.  The family’s saga is intertwined throughout the book with the slow decline of the family business, the Stroh Brewing Company.  There are some great passages about this decline like when Frances’ uncle Peter and senior manager in the business says at a family get together: “‘We have to grow or go…we’ll borrow the money.” From that moment on, you sense, Stroh is saying goodbye to the best values of a family business – debt free and a strong adherence to stakeholder values, all of which had seen Stroh through difficult times in the past.

Interested? Here’s a more in-depth review of Beer Money written earlier by Family Capital.


Forman’s Games: The Dark Underside of the London Olympics

By Lance Forman. Published by Biteback Publishing

Another book written by a member of a family business dynasty, this time Lance Forman, the fourth generation boss of the salmon curing business H. Forman & Son, based in London’s East End. Forman’s Games tells the story of an acrimonious battle of wills between a 100 year-plus family business and the combined might of the UK authorities working with the International Olympic Committee in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. As Lance says, the battle got nasty and until his book the fully story has never been told. A real David and Goliath epic, with the big and endearing personality of Lance at the centre of it.

Want a taster? Here’s an interview Lance gave earlier to Family Capital about his family business and his battle with IOC and other big backers of the London games.


L’Oréal, La beauté de la stratégie (L’Oréal, The Beauty of Strategy)

By Béatrice Collin. Published by Dunod

A compelling insight into one of the world’s great business dynasties, L’Oreal, by business professor Béatrice Collin. L’Oréal, La beauté de la stratégie argues that family ownership is one of the three pillars of the giant cosmetics group’s success. “Since its inception, the family character of L’Oreal has always been a vital force for the company, despite the twists in recent years,” says Collin, who teaches at the Paris-based business school ESCP Europe. “Family ownership has brought stability, long-term vision, and a mindset that combines prudence and entrepreneurial spirit.” OK, the book’s only in French, but for interested non-French speakers, here’s a slightly longer review Family Capital wrote earlier.


Family Business Mantras

By Tatwamasi Dixit and Peter Leach. Published Rupa Publications India

Family businesses can be stressful places, not least because those running them often have to deal with the anxieties of managing a company with the pressure of the family owners. But maybe a spot of meditation, or even a bit of Vedic philosophy could help. If you feel so inclined then pick up a copy of a book called India Family Business Mantras. Written by Tatwamasi Dixit, a Vedic scholar, and Peter Leach, a partner at the professional services group Deloitte in London, the book pulls upon Indian epics, scriptures and history to help guide family businesses in the 21st century.

Build Your Family Bank: A Winning Vision for Multigenerational Wealth

By Emily Griffiths-Hamilton. Published by Figure 1 Publishing

In Build Your Family Bank, Emily Griffiths-Hamilton pulls on lots of first-hand experiences with family businesses. She is the daughter of the late Canadian media and sports mogul Frank Griffiths, who set up Western Broadcasting Company, which was later acquired by Shaw Media. Griffiths-Hamilton explored the idea of the family bank, which, she says, is a metaphor for the family’s shared values and vision. “Once we get those worked out, the next step is to assess the human and intellectual assets, and then the financial assets,” she says. The concept is all part of Griffiths-Hamilton’s desire to empower families to make their own decisions around succession and money, rather than relying on accountants and lawyers. Here’s an interview Emily gave to Family Capital a few months ago.


Dethroning the King: The Hostile Takeover of Anheuser-Busch, an American Icon

By Julie MacIntosh. Published by John Wiley & Sons

Maybe there’s something about beer dynasties that lend themselves to enthralling tales of intrigue and decline, given that Dethroning the King is the second book on this list linked to a brewing dynasty. But unlike Beer Money, there’s nothing autobiographical about Dethroning the King, it’s written by journalist Julie MacIntosh. The book tells the story of how InBev, a Belgian company controlled by Brazilians, took over one of America’s most iconic brands, Anheuser-Busch. It portrays how the Busch family made a series of miscalculations that ultimately led to the takeover of the family business.


The Family Business Map: Assets and Roadblocks in Long-Term Planning

By Morten Bennedsen of INSEAD and Joseph PH Fan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Published by Palgrave MacMillan

Written by two academics and family business specialists, The Family Business Map attempts to create a framework for family businesses around planning, succession and governance. With more than 30 case studies of family businesses and how they deal with the big issues facing them, The Family Business Map is certainly up there with the best when it comes to business books on family ownership. It’s also easy to dip into and read just a few case studies to get some benefits from the impressive amount of wisdom packed into the book by the authors.


Les 100 000 familles: Plaidoyer pour l’entreprise familiale (The 100,000 Families: Advocacy for family business)

By Cyrille Chevrillon. Publisher: Grasset

It is often said in France that 200 families control the economy. This has been challenged by a book called Les 100,000 Familles, which argues that the number is far higher – and calls for governments and society to do more to promote family businesses, as they drive economic growth. Written by the French financier and business school professor Cyrille Chevrillon, the book argues that 100,000 families own more than 80% of French companies and produce around 60% of the country’s GDP. And their ownership isn’t some conspiracy, but rather crucial for the health of the global economy. Chevrillion also argues that family businesses are the key to economic recovery in France, and that ignorance and contempt towards them is in fact a big reason why growth isn’t happening in one of Europe’s biggest economies.


Dynasties: Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World’s Great Family Businesses

By David Landes. Published by Penguin Books

Nearly ten years old, Dynasties by David Landes is up there with the best accounts of the rise and fall of great family businesses. Landes, who died three years ago and was a prominent professor of history and economics at Harvard, underlined the importance of family business dynasties in American capitalism. But what makes some last longer than others? Landes attempts to find out and gives a pretty good historical account of why by analyzing the success and failure of 13 of the greatest dynasties. A compelling study that should be on the bookshelves of anyone with an interest in the role families play in global capitalism.


Family Business Yearbook 2016

Published by Deutsche Standards

OK, this book might be written by David Bain, the founder and editor of Family Capital, for the business services group, EY, so take this plug with some trepidation. Nevertheless, now in its third year, the Family Business Yearbook is pretty good when it comes to case studies on some of the most inspiring family businesses around. It’s also a great reference book with interesting essays on numerous subjects linked to the world of family ownership. Also, it’s free – albeit to qualified readers. Get in touch with EY to get your copy.


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