A property mogul has decided to donate his entire £1.2 billion pound fortune to charity, leaving his wife and kids with nothing.
He had a special interest in helping those with cataracts in their eyes. Since 2003, his foundation has helped restore the sight of more than 300,000 people from more than 20 provinces and autonomous regions across China, including some poverty-stricken areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan and Guizhou provinces.
Yu attributed his desire to help others with his experiences as a young man. In the 1940s, Yu had worked as a journalist and an editor for a newspaper, learning about the hardships of people in poverty. He moved to Hong Kong in 1958, and made a living in the early years with many jobs, including as a cleaner, handyman and construction worker. He later founded his own real estate company, then expanded to other areas, including tourism, hotels and healthcare.
In the 1980s, Yu started donating money to build schools, emergency centres, public bus routes, tunnels, fountains and other infrastructure projects. In 2007, he was on the list of world’s top philanthropists selected by Time magazine.
“If my children are more capable than me, it’s not necessary to leave a lot of money to them. If they are incompetent, a lot of money will only be harmful to them,”
Hong Kong Real Estate Billionaire Yu Pang-lin
Yu is the founder of the Yu Pang-lin Foundation dedicated to healthcare, education and disaster relief. He was believed to be China’s first billionaire to donate an entire fortune to charity.
Alarming Number of Family Business Failures
In my work as Family Business coach doing the rounds in Asia the past five years, I have witnessed a rapid increase of family business disputes bitterly adjudicated in courtrooms because of poor governance and harmful wealth and ownership distribution.
In a Family Enterprise Trend report by my consulting firm, W+B Family Advisory, it researched on the average age of business owners who are going through “rush” transitions.
The study showed more than half were 70 years old or more. The firm also identified the top five major sources of dispute:
1. Money as a result of ownership misalignment and wealth distribution
2. Control and Power struggle among siblings and or cousins
3. Poor succession programs that bred conflict
4. Wrong policies related compensation, dividend policies and incentive programs
5. Employment for everyone. Despite their lack of experience and competence, family members are thrust into leadership positions because of their surnames
Summarizing the report and analyzing why conflict and tension happens among these enterprises, it highlighted the following findings:
“Business owners in general procrastinated and did not see the urgency of initiating governance in the early stages of the business cycle. They were just too busy growing the business.
In the latter stages when health issues surface often and disagreements were becoming frequent, owners would suddenly realize that the children were not prepared to assume full control of the business when they (parents) are no longer around. In short, there was a very high probability that these family enterprises were headed to separation due to internal squabbles.”
Litigation Can Scar Family Relationshipsfor Life
My role as governance coach is to prevent and deter senseless and unnecessary family tension from escalating into a full blown and irreversible family feud. That if left to feed on its own, will spill over and convert the courtroom into the next family battleground.
With the exception of lawyers from both sides, nobody wins in a messy litigation process. They are just plain expensive, personal and can scar relationships for life.
Inevitably, whatever comes out of any court case can produce a debilitating effect not just on warring family members but also on the financial state of the enterprise.
Why is conflict pervasive?
As the business leader or visionary gets old, he or she has to naturally pass on the business to the heirs. Unfortunately, many of these owner managers follow certain traditions to a fault.
a. They do not want to see their own business empire falling apart as a result of division of wealth
b. They want their children to stay together in harmony so they can continue the business
c. They have very strong preference towards their male offspring to carry the mandate in the next generational cycle
d. But they are not open to Non family professionals joining the business
e. There are no entry and exit rules for family members and in-laws
To be continued…