Why Fights Erupt in Family Businesses

Two brothers sharing ownership in a fourth-generation concrete business had a bitter falling out over an unlikely issue: a sailboat. The older sibling accused the younger of dipping into the till to support his racing habit. The younger brother struck back by issuing an ultimatum: buy out my share of the company, or sell me yours. An ugly fight ensued, affecting the business, the family, the employees, and the customers. The rift between these two men — the father and uncle of a colleague of ours — never healed. Both men went to their graves without speaking another word to one another; their children grew up as strangers instead of cousins.

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