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

David S. Landes, Author . Viking $25.95 (380p) ISBN 978-0-670-03338-6

Beginning as a work of economics, moving through soap opera and finishing as history, this book tells the stories of 11 great family businesses in Europe, Japan and America with at least three generations of family control. Observing that the vast majority of businesses are family owned and run, historian Landes (The Wealth and Poverty of Nations ) argues that dynastic businesses offer a proven route to developing emerging markets, while companies managed by unrelated professionals and funded by public investors offer mostly bad jobs and slim profit shares to local employees. Even among the largest corporations, many retain significant financial and managerial involvement by the founder's relatives, and those that do perform better than the others. Landes's stories emphasize emotional life within these dynasties; he includes business details and general economic history only as context for family adventures and feuds. His emphasis is on how family considerations such as authority, love, trust, envy, marriage, adoption and succession determine the growth and direction of the business. While this may seem irrational compared to entrusting strategic decisions to specialized professionals selected according to talent rather than bloodline, Landes argues that family does a better job. (Sept. 25)

Reviewed on: 07/31/2006
Release date: 10/01/2006
Genre: Nonfiction
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