Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Business Succssion Planning: An Example from Baseball

With baseball season now starting, I think The New York Times' Oedipus Bronx might have even a bit more relevance.

"For the Yankees, the ongoing succession is a lot more complicated than it was for either the Mets or the Knicks. The team is now in the hands of not one but two designated heirs, and one of the Steinbrenner sisters, Jennifer, will have a voice in the team’s operations, too, as will Felix Lopez, the second husband of the other sister, Jessica. “Like almost any family business with a patriarch and children, the long-term future of the Yankees will depend on the need to avoid sibling rivalries and other types of problems,” one of the team’s limited partners told me. “The question is going to be how they function as a family.”"


If resentment does surface between Hank and Hal, their father will be at least partly responsible. He had years to prepare a succession plan, but like so many successful family-business leaders, who tend to feel an especially powerful sense of ownership, he had a hard time letting go. From time to time he talked about “letting the young elephants into the tent,” as he put it, yet at the end of the day — at least until Steve Swindal emerged — he always kept the flaps tightly closed. What’s more, Steinbrenner Sr. pitted Hank and Hal against each other with comments like the ones he made to Sports Illustrated in 2004 and presumably created the current Darwinian arrangement in which they are both “equal partners” in the business.