CORPORATE BLOODLINES: The Future of the Family Firm by Barbara B. & Margaret Crane Buchholz

CORPORATE BLOODLINES: The Future of the Family Firm

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Chirpy, bumbling rundowns on 14 oddly coupled enterprises, which do little more than confirm Tolstoy's assertion: ""All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."" All told, Buchholz, a journalist, and Crane (who's involved in her own family's business) approached 30 companies owned and/or operated by families. Since roughly 90 percent of the approximately 15 million business establishments in the US are so classified, their sample can most charitably be described as unrepresentative. More to the point, perhaps, the authors make a remarkably poor job of profiling the concerns to which they secured access. Among other difficulties, Buchholz and Crane seem to believe that observant reportage is an adequate substitute for analytic probing of such issues as succession, nepotism, going public, sibling rivalries, and estate planning. By way of example, readers can learn that John C. Koss ""looks like six feet of conservative Midwestern reserve in a sensible coat and tie."" Unfortunately, there's no adequate explanation as to why this ultracompetitive wheeler-dealer who pioneered stereo headphones ceded control of his prospering firm to an outsider, winding up in and out of bankruptcy court. Nor do the authors account much better for the success or failure of enterprises like Dillard Department Stores, a three-outlet jewelry chain, Fox Photo Inc., a moving company, two wineries (including one owned by a Firestone heir), a debt-ridden family farm, and a black-owned janitorial-services outfit (which suffered severe reverses after losing its set-aside contracts). At least one of their choices, Book-stop (launched by bachelor Gary Hoover, whose family ties remain strictly filial), adds nothing to the lore of kindred commerce. In many instances, moreover, Buchholz and Crane are guilty of graceless, even loopy, writing. On the leisure activities of a father/ son team, for instance: ""They'd go out into the woods, after they shot a deer they'd build a big campfire and gaze at the stars."" A dispensable hodgepodge.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1989
Publisher: Lyle Stuart/Carol Communications