“Anybody can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way – that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”
Anger takes many different forms depending on what the available means of expression are, how it is provoked, and to whom or at what it is directed. Anger is a frequent emotion in the context of family business. The combination of family relationships with the challenges and pressures of business presents an ideal setting to spark anger in even the most patient of souls. That being said, expressing anger from time to time is healthy and can lead to a better work atmosphere. There have, however, been many cases in which this tough emotion has ended businesses and sometimes even broken family bonds.
Puma vs. Adidas
For over 60 years, Puma and Adidas have been battling for supremacy of the competitive sportswear market. What most people do not realise is that this particular rivalry is rooted in a bitter feud that pitted two brothers against one another.
In the 1920s, brothers Adolf and Rudolph Dassler began a shoe business out of their mother’s laundry room in the small Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach. Even as Germany fell under Nazi rule, sales soared after their shoes adorned the feet of Olympic champions in the 1930s. Success, however, created tension between the brothers, aided by the fact that their families lived in the same villa despite their wives not getting along. In one particularly confrontational incident, Rudolph and his wife took cover in their bomb shelter during an Allied attack. As his brother’s family joined, Adolf apparently swore at the planes, which Rudi mistook as a personal insult.
By the end of the war, the brothers parted ways and split the company in two – Adolf founded Adidas and Rudolph created Puma. The feud continued to grow in ridiculous proportions, with the entire town of Herzogenaurach participating in the rivalry. Townsmen formed alliances around company loyalties. Local businesses reportedly refused service to customers depending on whether they were Adidas or Puma employees. People were even forbidden to marry across company lines.
It was not until 2009, long after the brothers passed, that the two companies came together for a friendly soccer match, finally putting and end to the angry feud.
French Fry Wars – Harrison and Wallace McCain
Brothers Harrison and Wallace McCain launched their eponymous frozen food company, McCain Foods, in 1957. Within 30 years, the Canadian company emerged as the world’s largest producer of processed foods and became the leading supplier of French fries, providing to both McDonald’s and KFC. As co-chief executives, Harrison and Wallace worked side by side for 37 years, boasting such a close personal and professional bond that an unlocked door connected their offices.
The relationship, however, turned sour in 1993 when Wallace, against his brother’s objections, appointed his son Michael as head of McCain’s American operations. The company’s performance was less than satisfactory under Michael’s leadership, with McCain just ranking in at fifth in the competitive US frozen potato market. It was later revealed that an increasingly irritated Harrison interfered in US operations by working out purchasing deals with McDonald’s behind Michael’s back, incensing his brother Wallace. The growing discontent between the two brothers escalated into an angry power struggle. Soon after, Harrison was able to convince family shareholders to demote Wallace from co-CEO to vice chairman. The consequent litigation wars resulted in Wallace’s exile from being active in the company, though he maintained one-third ownership.
Wallace went on to purchase rival Canadian food-processing giant, Maple Leaf Foods, leading it to great success. He has been quoted as saying, “The biggest thing that happened to me in the past 25 years – and in my life – was being unceremoniously dumped from McCain Foods.”
Stanley Ho and Family
Rarely do single families wield as much influence and power over one city, as does Stanley Ho’s in Macau, the world’s largest gambling market. Through a vast network of casinos, restaurants and hotels, the Ho family collectively oversees a business empire that controls a staggering 30% of Macau’s $23.5 billion gambling revenue.
In early 2011, a rift emerged as members of the family began to accuse one another of illegally seizing Stanley Ho’s controlling stake in the family’s holding company, Lanceford. What complicated matters was the fact that Stanley Ho’s family was made up of four different wives and 17 children. The dispute became public after nearly all of Ho’s shares in Lanceford were transferred to companies controlled by his second and third wives, effectively diluting his $1.7 billion stake from 100% to 0.02%. On Youtube Ho claimed that he had always planned on dividing his share into four equal parts amongst his family and that he had been “bullied” into signing a document transferring his stake. He therefore filed a lawsuit against the wives and their children. The two wives later released letters supposedly handwritten by Mr. Ho, claiming that the tycoon was firing his law firm and had in fact willingly signed the transfer document. He is alleged to have said: “Family matters should not involve lawyers, and suing one another in the courts is troublesome!”
The public squabbling that captivated the gambling city came to an abrupt end when Stanley Ho suddenly withdrew his lawsuit, claiming in yet another public letter that a settlement was reached between all members of the family.
Bal Mohinder Singh and Jasimder Singh
In 1973, Bal Mohinder Singh and his son, Jasminder, emigrated from East Africa to Northern London where they began a small post office. As the business grew, so did their reach into the hotel industry, with their company acquiring around a dozen hotels including the famed May Fair. Since his son had a better command of English and was a qualified accountant, Bal Mohinder put him in charge of leading the group while he presided over a directorship position. The father-son team expanded the company into what is now a hotel chain valued at £800 million.
In 2013, Bal Mohinder filed a lawsuit against Jasminder. According to Bal Mohinder, Jasminder forced him into retirement in 2010 and has since failed to share the family wealth. Bal Mohinder went on to claim that under Sikh tradition, he was entitled to a third of the wealth of their business. He was “deeply ashamed” that Jasminder had forsaken his Sikh upbringing in such a manner. Mrs. Singh and their other two other children also testified against Jasminder throughout the proceedings. Jasminder asserted that he did not have a particularly religious upbringing, and that there was never a family agreement to share property.
Ultimately, Jasminder prevailed in his defence against his father. It was later surprisingly revealed that the Singhs and their respective families continued to live together in a 7-bedroom house despite the fallout from the lawsuit.
Tharawat Magazine, Issue 25, 2015