From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, a fascinating look at the crossroads of kin and coin
David S. Landes has earned a reputation as a brilliant writer and iconoclast among economic historians. In his latest acclaimed work, he takes a revealing look at the quality that distinguishes a third of today's Fortune 500 companies: family ownership. From the banking fortunes of Rothschild and Morgan to the automobile empires of Ford and Toyota, Landes explores thirteen different dynasties, revealing what lay behind their successes-and how extravagance, bad behavior, and poor enterprise brought some of them to their knees. A colorful history that is full of surprising conclusions, Dynasties is an engrossing mix of ambition, eccentricity, and wealth.
Beginning as a work of economics, moving through soap opera and finishing as history, this book tells the stories of 11 great family businesses in Europe, Japan and America with at least three generations of family control. Observing that the vast majority of businesses are family owned and run, historian Landes (The Wealth and Poverty of Nations) argues that dynastic businesses offer a proven route to developing emerging markets, while companies managed by unrelated professionals and funded by public investors offer mostly bad jobs and slim profit shares to local employees. Even among the largest corporations, many retain significant financial and managerial involvement by the founder's relatives, and those that do perform better than the others. Landes's stories emphasize emotional life within these dynasties; he includes business details and general economic history only as context for family adventures and feuds. His emphasis is on how family considerations such as authority, love, trust, envy, marriage, adoption and succession determine the growth and direction of the business. While this may seem irrational compared to entrusting strategic decisions to specialized professionals selected according to talent rather than bloodline, Landes argues that family does a better job.