HR & Management

Five great business family feuds

5 min read

02 November 2015

Going into business with a family member can be a very rewarding experience, but it doesn't always go to plan. Real Business has a look at five occasions it has blown up in a big fashion.

As Steve Jobs, the movie about the life of the founder of Apple, hits the screens, one person who probably won’t be settling down with his popcorn to watch it is Bill Gates. It’s a well known fact that Gates and Jobs detested each other.

Gates was a nerd who enjoyed academic study and wrote code while Jobs left coding to his business partner Steve Wozniak and focussed on marketing. However, they both understood their business. 

In 1997 Jobs accepted a $150m investment from Gates when Apple looked as if it was ready for the compost. On the other hand, when the deal was announced, those attending the Macworld conference booed Gates’ appearance by video and it’s said that Melinda Gates wouldn’t let her children use iPods.

However, some of the greatest feuds in the world of business have actually taken place within families.

Rudolf and Adolf Dassler  

The brothers founded their first shoe company in their mothers’ laundry room in the small German town of Herzogenaurach in 1924. But the two fell out badly during World War II and in 1948 Rudolf Dassler founded the company that would become Puma while Adi registered Adidas in 1949. 

The rivalry between the Dassler brothers divided Herzogenaurach, where the rival Adidas and Puma have factories on opposite sides of its river.

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The Gucci family

The Guccis have been experts in leather crafts since the 15th century but the modern Gucci brand was founded in 1906 by Guccio Gucci. After his sons Aldo and Rodolfo took over the business writs started flying between family members as they fought for control over the brand name and its products. 

In 1998 Patrizia Gucci, known as the “Black Widow”, was jailed for 26 years for arranging the death of her husband, Maurizio Gucci.

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Harrison and Wallace McCain

You’ve eaten their chips but did you know about their family feud? In 1957 Canadians Harrison and Wallace set up what was to become the world’s largest producer of frozen French fries. 

The two worked closely together for nearly 40 years until Wallace appointed to his son to head up the US division of the business. Harrison objected and a year later, in 1994, Wallace was ejected from the company and went to run another food company. They were reconciled just before Harrison’s death.

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Gordon Ramsay and his father-in-law

Gordon Ramsay is known for his explosive temper, but Christopher Hutcheson has felt his wrath more acutely than most. Hutcheson, his father-in-law, was also the CEO of Gordon Ramsay Holdings. Ramsay accused Hutcheson of using a ghostwriter to forge his signature on a document that made him the personal guarantor for the annual rent of £640,000 of the York & Albany pub near Regent’s Park, North London. 

However, a judge subsequently decided that it was “entirely implausible” that Ramsay didn’t know the full extent of the use of the ghostwriter machine. Ramsay also sacked Hutcheson, and Hutcheson’s son Adam, from the business on the grounds of gross misconduct.

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Bal Mohinder and Jasminder Singh

When he first came to Britain, Bal Mohinder Singh ran a post office in North London before going into the hotel business with help of his son Jasminder, a chartered accountant. 

They built up an empire worth £800m, but in 2010 Bal Mohinder took Jasminder to court claiming that he had forced him to retire and thereby depriving him of a share of the business. The judge rejected his claim. Amazingly, though, father and son still live in the same house near Ascot racecourse in Berkshire with their families.

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