Kenneth Kaye

Conflict Resolution – a Family Office

Hammond Enterprises [not its real name] is a holding company managing about $800 million in assets including agriculture, real estate, and manufacturing companies. Its board, consisting of two outsiders plus the widow, son, and daughter of Mr. Hammond, hired us to resolve a conflict of personalities and communication styles among the family members and their CEO.

The stakes were high, as Mrs. Hammond had not completed her estate planning and more than half the equity was still in her name. She and her daughter had legitimate questions about the management of family assets, which their CEO was prepared to address. The obstacle seemed to be the son’s defensiveness, as Managing Partner, which in turn triggered more aggressive behavior from his sister,brother-in-law, and mother, a lack of appreciation for the 30 years he had dedicated to their family business, and a genuine danger of catastrophic breakdown.

Using the system described in Kaye’s book Workplace Wars and How to End Them, we conducted family sessions several times a month for half a year; sometimes with only board members, sometimes including all eleven family members over 21. Not all of the issues were current, business-related ones. Emotional issues related to Mr. Hammond’s sudden death, 15 years earlier, hurt feelings regarding two of the marriages, even feelings about the grandchildren.

In this case, the combination of family therapy and business conflict resolution freed the participants to discuss their significant wealth management and wealth transfer issues in a less volatile environment, and it reversed the destructive course of family relationships. The Hammonds, fortunately, genuinely cared for one another and eagerly took the opportunities to clear away painful misunderstandings. They learned, as much from the in-laws as from the consultants, the ability (lacking in their heritage) to express positive as well as negative feelings.

click here for a relevant article by Ken with Sara Hamilton of Family Office Exchange

click here to follow a link where you can browse Ken’s book The Dynamics of Family Business (2005) online.

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