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Entrepreneurial Finance and Family Business
Questions to be Discussed in Class
Case 10: “S.C. Johnson & Sons”
1. Characterize the four generations of family managers at S.C. Johnson & Sons
2. With all four children involved in the business, how should Samuel Johnson solve the
3. What are the pros and cons of the family trusts in relation to Samuel Johnson’s succession
Case 11: “Family business succession in Asia”
1. In what way does the Wang Group exhibit characteristics of a typical Asian family firm? In what way does the Wang Group differ from such firms?
2. How did Charles Wang change the Wang Group? What obstacles did he face when he hired a non-family member as the new CEO?
3. What further steps should Wang take to ensure the Wang Group remains a sustainable family firm?
Succession and Continuity for Johnson
Family Enterprises (A)It was late afternoon on a Friday in the summer of 1989. Sixty-one-year-old Samuel Curtis Johnson (Sam), CEO of his family’s 103-year-old S. C. Johnson & Son company, sat at the controls of his Cessna Caravan Amphibian airplane. He was flying northwest from his home and company headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin, to meet his wife, Imogene (Gene), and extended family members at their vacation place in northern Wisconsin, developed by his grandfather in the 1920s.
Flying in his own plane, as his father had before him, gave Sam pleasure under any circumstance. But he especially enjoyed flying solo because it provided the solitude to sort out his thoughts, to reflect on the past and prepare for the future. That afternoon, he thought about his hopes for the family’s businesses, with their estimated $3 billion in sales and more than 13,000 employees worldwide. As the fourth-generation family business leader, he had always sought to keep the family enterprises on course. And his ruminations included thoughts about establishing leadership and ownership succession while maintaining stability and continuity.
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The Company’s Beginnings and Its Lessons
First Generation: Samuel Curtis Johnson (1833–1919)
As his plane climbed to cruising altitude, Sam thought back to his entrepreneurial great-grandfather, also named Samuel Curtis Johnson (SCJ). (See Exhibit 1: Family Chart of Descendents of SCJ.) In 1886 at age 53, Sam’s namesake purchased the parquet flooring business of the Racine Hardware Company, where he had worked for four years as a flooring salesman.
When he noticed his customers asking how best to preserve their new flooring, SCJ diversified by developing a product that met customers’ needs. He researched the best preservative of the time(beeswax had been used to preserve wood floors up to 300 years in castles in France), tested,mixed, and canned batches of paste-wax in a bathtub and sold it to customers after installation.
Second Generation: Herbert Fisk Johnson Sr. (1868–1928)
SCJ and his wife had two children. His daughter, Jessie, was 21 when he founded the firm and was never involved in the business. His son, Herbert Fisk Johnson Sr. (Herbert), was 18 when the company started and joined the business two years later in 1888 when the paste-wax product went national. He and his father worked closely together. In 1906 they officially became partners and changed the name of the firm to S. C. Johnson & Son. During the time of their partnership,the company instituted many enlightened policies for employees, including paid vacations (1900),group life insurance, and annual profit sharing of pre-tax profits (1917).
Third Generation: Herbert Fisk Johnson Jr. (1899–1978)
On the eve of the stock market crash of 1929, while estate and legal issues were being worked out, HF, who was then only 28 years old, became president and chief operating officer ofa business that had grown to 500 employees and $5 million in sales. Even though he had help from two relatives, his brother-in-law John J. Louis, who ran an advertising agency in Chicago and provided marketing leadership, and a distant cousin, Jack Ramsey, who was a manufacturing manager, running the business was still a mammoth responsibility for someone so young. At the time, HF was also newly married and had three children under four years old—Karen, Henrietta,and Sam. Sam was born the same year his grandfather died and his father took over the running of the firm.
The HF Johnson and Louis families each set up three similar trusts. Planning took place with separate lawyers, but the overall guidance of Harold Stassen assured that both families were in agreement on objectives and death tax saving methods.11 In his will, HF named Sam his successor as business leader and trustee. Long before he died, HF started to move the company’s common stock to future generations of the family through trusts.
Fourth Generation: Samuel Curtis Johnson (1928–2004)
As Sam entered cruising altitude, he began to think of his own tenure in the family business.When newly married and 26, after completing a degree in economics at Cornell, a master`s degree in business from Harvard, and two years’ service as a U.S. Air Force intelligence officer,he started work as his father’s assistant in 1954. Soon after, HF devised a career path for Sam that would equip him with the skills necessary to run the business.
Fifth Generation: Curt (1955– ), Helen (1956– ), Fisk (1958– ), Winnie (1959– )
As Sam approached the lake near his vacation home, he reflected on the paths that his children had taken before committing to the family firm. All four had graduated from the private college preparatory Prairie School in Racine founded by their mother and funded initially in large part by their grandfather, HF. After that, they all followed their parents and grandfather to college at Cornell University. Curt’s degree was in economics; then he obtained an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, and co-founded a successful venture capital firm where he worked for five years. Helen’s degree was in psychology.
After that, she worked for a hotel, opened her own restaurant, and took a position at Foot e, Cone & Belding advertising agency in Chicago. Fisk had a double degree in chemistry and physics. He then stayed at Cornell for a master’s degree in engineering, a master’s degree in physics, an MBA, and a PhD in physics. Winnie attended Vassar and Cornell where she studied chemistry and economics.
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