James Olan Hutcheson, a consultant who advises family businesses, writes on the BusinessWeek web site that the Bancroft family that controls Dow Jones & Co. needs to understand what they’re getting themselves into now that they’ve started exploring selling the parent of The Wall Street Journal to News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch or another bidder.
Hutcheson wrote, “The Bancroftsâ€”as well as other business familiesâ€”should still take time to talk to suitors in almost any circumstance because of one critical factor. That is, themselves. The decision to sell or not to sell, or even whether or not to consider selling, is one of the most potentially divisive a business family will face. For that reason, it must be faced openly. To attempt to avoid the issue is to invite problems.
“In most families, especially those that have grown as large as the 34-person Bancroft clan, this will likely become a divided discussion. There will be some who do and some who don’t want to sell. And the intensity will range from “It doesn’t really matter to me” to outward hostility and open aggression. Some will say this is not what granddad would have wanted. Some will say they should be focusing on increasing the family wealth.
“But division is predictable and OK, as long as it’s not ignored. Although it is possible to bully, ignore, mislead, or otherwise overcome opposition, inevitably the parties to such a dysfunctional deal find other ways to express their viewpoints.”
Read more here.