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Book reviews: The Volkswagen Scandal, More than Money, Am I being too subtle?

David Braham rounds up a selection of family business reads

Faster, Higher, Farther: The Volkswagen Scandal

By Jack Ewing | Rated: 4.5| WW Norton and Co

One of the reasons family business leaders attend Campden Conferences and read CampdenFB is to hear the real-life stories, the successes, the failures and scandals that other families go through. New York Times reporter Ewing has focussed on just that for his new book. Since mid-2015, second generation German family-controlled car giant Volkswagen has gone through one of the largest scandals in modern business. The diesel emission scandal cost the company billions in fines as well as the chief executive and second-generation chairman their jobs. Ewing doesn’t just detail the business issues and engineering problems but he also provides a lot of detail about the Porsche-Pietch family dynamic. If you are a family that is looking to build a global family business empire and want to learn the lessons about bad business practices and governance, this is worth a read.

More Than Money

By Michael Cole | Rated: 3 | Wiley

There are many reasons family fail to successfully transition a business and wealth from one generation of a family to another. Traditional wealth management and academic theory concerns itself with structure, governance, investment management and planning. Author and Ascent Private Capital Management founder and president Cole considers a more fundamental issue as a reason why family can fail to successfully transition–communication and alignment. More Than Money provides families with high-level advice and practical tools to help them successfully preserve and transition wealth, including a family’s vision and mission, governance models, and different ideas for education for family members. Michael also includes great case-studies about families who have succeeded and failed to transition wealth, including Yuengling, Hicks, Rockefeller, Hartford and Pulitzer families. 

Am I Being Too Subtle? Straight Talk From a Business Rebel

By Sam Zell | Rated: 3.5 | Portfolio Penguin

Zell, who was the keynote speaker at our 2016 and 2017 North American Family Conference, has experienced, seen and achieved more in his life time, than most multigenerational family businesses. The entrepreneur and family office investor’s new book provides a first-hand account of his life, his motivations, his successes and failures. His account of the Chicago Tribune ownership as well as the tumultuous 1990s provides every business leader with reassurance that it doesn’t always go your way. However, everyone has the ability to go for greatness and his final chapter provides some great life lessons that will help you achieve this. Zell is a master investor and leader and his stories provide lessons to everyone in the business world today.

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