Did W. R. Hearst Create The Greatest Succession Plan Ever?

Perhaps one of the best case studies of how a will can make a big beneficial difference to a business is the Hearst family and the business they own, Hearst Corporation.The founder of the family business, William Randolph Hearst, is one of America’s most famous tycoons thanks largely to the popularity of the film Citizen Kane, which is loosely based on his life. But, unlike in the film, where Charles Foster Kane, played by Orson Welles, leaves his business empire in ruins, William Randolph’s business legacy has been one of the greatest and most successful of all 20th century tycoons. That success is no doubt due to many factors, but William Randolph’s shrewd estate planning plays a defining role in the strength of the Hearst Corporation today. When he died in 1951 at the age of 88, his will barred his five children (all sons) from running Hearst Corporation. William Randolph made it clear the running of the business was to be in the hands of professional managers – not family members.

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