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August 16, 2017

How to Keep the Family Business Thriving For Generations to Come

Most corporate dynasties fail to make it to a second generation, making these Canadian firms thriving under the leadership of the founder’s grandkids (and great-grandkids!) truly remarkable

Izzy Asper never wanted his children to work at Canwest Global Communications, the now defunct media empire he founded. His drive and hunger for acquisitions turned Canwest into one of the most powerful firms in Canada and, for a time, earned the Aspers a spot on the Rich 100. He wanted his kids to succeed elsewhere, however.

“They were all practising lawyers and were doing very nicely on their own. It was they who got this dynastic glaze in their eyes—which I generally discouraged,” he told journalist Peter C. Newman. “I don’t believe in dynasties.” But his daughter, Gail, “slipped through the net” to become general counsel at Canwest, and brothers David and Leonard followed. It was under Leonard’s stewardship that Canwest filed for bankruptcy in 2009.

The collapse led Newman to malign the state of business dynasties. “Two dozen of the most powerful families that had once held sway over the Canadian economy have lost their influence and their pride of place,” he wrote in Canadian Capital. “The notion that blood relatives who assumed the leadership mantle could automatically be relied on to add value proved to be pure bunk.”

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