Why some family empires struggle with succession

【双语】又见教父离去 Godfathers depart, too-书迷号 shumihao.com

MACAU WILL become the “Las Vegas of the Far East”, predicted Sheldon Adelson, an American casino magnate. In 2019 the Chinese territory’s $30bn in annual casino revenue was five times Vegas’s. Despite a slump in turnover this year as covid-19 emptied parlours, Macau’s rise looks poised to resume. It owes much to Stanley Ho, the charming scion of an illustrious Hong Kong clan. Thanks to the monopoly gambling licence he secured from Macau’s former Portuguese administrators in 1961 and held until 2002, STDM, his family’s main holding company, grew into Asia’s largest gambling empire.

美国赌业大亨谢尔登·阿德尔森(Sheldon Adelson)曾预测澳门将成为“远东的拉斯维加斯”。2019年,中国这个特别行政区的博彩年收入达到300亿美元,是拉斯维加斯的五倍。尽管受新冠疫情影响,今年赌场营业额大幅下降,但看起来澳门必然会重拾上升势头。这在很大程度上要归功于出身香港望族、魅力非凡的何鸿燊。他在1961年从澳门的前葡萄牙政府手中取得了博彩专营权牌照,并一直持有至2002年。凭借这块赌牌,其家族的主要控股公司澳门旅游娱乐公司成长为亚洲最大的博彩王国。

Mr Ho died on May 26th, aged 98, leaving behind 14 children and a $6bn-plus fortune. A decade ago his last wife fought a bitter public battle against his second and third wives for control of SJM Holdings, the group’s publicly traded arm. His elder children joined the acrimonious spat, which ended in a truce.

何鸿燊于5月26日去世,享年98岁,身后留下14名子女和超过60亿美元的财产。十年前,他的四房太太对二房和三房公开发起了激烈的争产战,争夺对家族集团的上市公司澳博控股(SJM Holdings)的控制权。年长的子女们也加入了这场尖锐的纷争,最后以和解收场。

Many Asian firms face similarly complex successions. Family concerns make up over half of all big businesses in Asia. Other recently departed patriarchs include Eka Tjipta Widjaja of Indonesia’s Sinar Mas Group, Henry Sy of SM Group in the Philippines and Shin Kyuk-ho of South Korea’s Lotte Group. Many other businesses have ageing leaders. Experts foresee a wave of turbulence.

许多亚洲公司面临同样复杂的继承问题。亚洲的大公司有半数以上是家族企业。近期离世的其他家族企业大家长有印度尼金光集团(Sinar Mas Group)的黄奕聪、菲律宾SM集团的施至成,以及韩国乐天集团的辛格浩。其他许多企业的领导人也已老迈。专家预测将有一轮动荡。

Many patriarchs fear that anointing an heir apparent would weaken their grip on power or bring bad luck. Because Asian business dynasties tend to be quite new, many lack the institutional structures of European or American ones.


A deeper problem is their relationship-based management model. Bosses cultivate a personal rapport with politicians and financiers, which does not easily transfer from one generation to the next. Joseph Fan of the Chinese University of Hong Kong finds that family firms in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan lose some 60% of their value during generational transitions.


Some of Asia’s geriatric bosses are keen to avoid this fate. Before retiring two years ago, Li Ka-shing, the 91-year-old doyen of corporate Hong Kong, simplified his web of businesses. He gave one of his sons clear control of CK Hutchison Holdings and CK Asset Holdings, which contain most of his empire.