Founder-Owner Damages Relationship with Daughter

Some families have highly enmeshed relationships between their family and their business: membership and status in the family is connected to how well one works and supports the family business. Gaining status in the family means gaining status in the business and vice versa. When such enmeshment exists, it can create serious relationship problems when new relationships are formed in the second generation.

In the Smith family, the parent-founders of the family printing company always expressed the value that whomever their four daughters married would be considered a full member of the family—just like a son. When the oldest daughter married, her husband was offered a job and a block of shares in the company. Two years later, the marriage ended in divorce, the son-in-law joined a competitor, and the family engaged in a lengthy legal battle to recover the outstanding shares. At that point, Mr. Smith approached his third daughter, who was planning to marry one of the company’s accountants. Mr. Smith told her that not only would he not be giving any shares to the new husband, but he wanted the couple to sign a prenuptial agreement withholding her shares from community property, and he would prefer it if the new son-in-law gave up employment with the company.

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