N&Q: Inspiration from a prominent nextgen; succession at Dyson…and more

Lapo Elkann      Photo by Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images
Lapo Elkann      Photo by Guido De Bortoli/Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

Insights from a next gen – Lapo Elkann

An entertaining read for anyone with an interest in family dynastic wealth is an interview with Lapo Elkann in the latest edition of Vanity Fair. A member of one of the world’s most famous dynasties, the Agnelli family, Lapo appears to have thrown off his bad years linked to drugs and become a successful entrepreneur. He’s set up various companies, including a sunglass group called Italia Independent and a car restyling business Garage Italia Customs. Lapo, 38, looks to be emerging out from behind the shadow of his older and more successful brother, John, who is chairman of Fiat and oversees the family’s investment group, Exor.

From a family business perspective, perhaps the most interesting quote from the interview is: “People would laugh if I say I started from ground zero, but the reality is I started my companies from scratch. My mind-set today and in those days was ‘Think like a self-made man. Even though you come from a family who has a humongous heritage, has everything, you need to think like someone who is poor. Because if you think like someone who is rich, you’re fucked.’ ” Sturdy advice to any next generation member of a family business…


Troubled times at one big chaebol

One of South Korea’s biggest chaebols, Hanjin Group, is facing difficult times after its huge shipping business filed for bankruptcy. A victim of overcapacity and falling global demand in the container business, Hanjin Shipping was once one of the world’s biggest container companies. Under the leadership of Cho Soo Ho, one of the four sons of Cho Choong Hoon, who founded Hanjin Group at the end of World War II, Hanjin Shipping’s woes are likely to place pressure on the larger chaebol it’s part of, which also owns Korean Air. Already the South Korean government is pushing the chaebol to pay for the cost of offloading all of the ships owned by Hanjin, many of which remain stranded in ports around the world. The chairman of the Hanjin Group is Cho Yang-ho, one of the other sons of the founder.

The Cho family has had its fair share of bad publicity in recent years. In December 2014, Heather Cho, the daughter of Cho Yang-ho, became embroiled in a scandal involving a Korean Air flight she was on. Referred to as the “nut rage incident” – there’s even a whole Wikipedia entry on it – Cho ordered the plane back to the airport gate because she was dissatisfied with the way a flight attendant served her nuts. The outcome of the incident saw Heather Cho do time in jail. A cautionary tale for all those next generation owners who become a little bit too prone to showing too much entitlement…


Dyson names son as his successor

No big surprise here, but James Dyson, the British inventor and entrepreneur, has officially named his son, Jake, to take over Dyson when he decides to step down. Jake, who runs Jake Dyson Products, has been the heir apparent for a number of years. One of the UK’s best-known businessmen, James Dyson also said he has no intention of listing the business, nor selling it. He told the Telegraph: “I would not float or sell out for all sorts of reasons. If you have to worry about shareholders and the City (of London) and what they think, then that adds a whole new dimension, which might be a good discipline but in our case would be a bad discipline.” He also talked about the importance of having a long-term vision for Dyson and reckoned that 10 years wasn’t a particularly long period of time for his company when it comes to product development. Fast becoming a prominent practitioner of stewardship…no wonder he’s also becoming the poster boy of the UK’s family business advisory community…