From Swords to Ploughshares: Three Generations of Family Entrepreneurship, Conflict, Transitions and Connection

Published 31 Jan 2009
Reference 5208
Region North America
Length 15 page(s)
Language English
Prizes & Awards

Winner of the 2009 EFMD Case Writing Competition in the Category 'Family Business'


Harry McNeely Sr started a storage and transport company with his brother-in-law in 1916. Whereas his sons, Don & Harry Jr, were taken into the company, Harry Sr made provision for his two daughters to be financially independent but gave them no stake in the family business. After his death, the daughters contested the will and were made minority shareholders, but not before the family had endured the largest court ordered business liquidation in Minnesota's history. Things settled down for a while but then another problem emerged: the succession had not been settled. Although Paddy, Harry Jr.'s son, was keen to run the company, his ageing father was reluctant to hand over the reins. In parallel, participation in the family's charitable foundation successfully united all the cousins of the third generation.

Teaching objectives

This case deals with the next generation problems and recognition within the family business. It also examines the importance of communication in a family business and the need to establish a structure that encourages family participation.

  • Family Business
  • Governance
  • Ownership
  • Next Generation
  • Family System
  • Family Relationship
  • Foundation
  • Role of the Board
  • RD0109
  • AR0809
  • AR2009
  • Corporate Governance
  • Corporate Governance for Family Firms
  • Succession, next generation
  • Governance, parallel planning, strategy, boards
  • Fair process, communication, psychology, gender
  • Education, entrepreneurship, leadership