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Dynasties: Fortunes and Misfortunes of the World's Great Family Businessesby David S. Landes
"Dynasties is rich in anecdote and will bring pleasure to the many readers who admired Landes's last book, The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. It offers the same combination of shrewd insight and an engagingly conversational style. It is especially funny on the temptations to which nearly all dynasties sooner or later succumb, the most lethal (in the author's view) being horses." Niall Ferguson, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)
Synopses & Reviews
A rich and lively survey of the great families who rule industry by the acclaimed author of The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.
Through perseverance, solid ingenuity, and unwavering determination, family-run companies — dynasties — have dominated wealth and business throughout the last two centuries. One third of Fortune 500 firms are family owned and, in most cases, the ideal of the family business is one synonymous with continuity, watchful leadership, and dedication to success. But what happens when bad behavior, extravagance, and laziness — all very real enemies of industry — are allowed to proliferate?
In Dynasties, bestselling author and historian David S. Landes scrutinizes the powerful family businesses that rule both the financial and industrial sectors across Europe, Japan, and America to determine what factors can cause a dynasty to flourish or fail. Focusing on three areas — banking, automobiles, and raw materials — his cast of characters speaks to the power of the family enterprise: Ford, Rothschild, Morgan, Guggenheim, Rockefeller, and Toyoda are but a few whose histories contain all the drama and passion expected when exorbitant money, power, and kinship intersect. Drawing on his immense knowledge of economic history, Landes offers a new reading of the dynastic business plan of the last two centuries — with surprising recommendations for the coming one.
"Beginning as a work of economics, moving through soap opera and finishing as history, this book tells the stories of 11 great family businesses in Europe, Japan and America with at least three generations of family control. Observing that the vast majority of businesses are family owned and run, historian Landes (The Wealth and Poverty of Nations) argues that dynastic businesses offer a proven route to developing emerging markets, while companies managed by unrelated professionals and funded by public investors offer mostly bad jobs and slim profit shares to local employees. Even among the largest corporations, many retain significant financial and managerial involvement by the founder's relatives, and those that do perform better than the others. Landes's stories emphasize emotional life within these dynasties; he includes business details and general economic history only as context for family adventures and feuds. His emphasis is on how family considerations such as authority, love, trust, envy, marriage, adoption and succession determine the growth and direction of the business. While this may seem irrational compared to entrusting strategic decisions to specialized professionals selected according to talent rather than bloodline, Landes argues that family does a better job. (Sept. 25)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Historian Landes profiles business dynasties from the seventeenth century to the present....This is an excellent book." Booklist
"[A] lively although very loosely organized analysis....This overview, complete with family sagas, is interesting, but readers who want more substance and structure could read particular biographies..." Library Journal
"The book is an interesting compare-and-contrast exercise, not only among the families listed, but between them and the family businesses around us....It also provides many cautionary tales..." San Antonio Express-News
"Landes's characteristic insight and caustic wit brighten oft-told tales....For Landes, Dynasties was clearly a pleasurable undertaking, not a scholarly one, and general readers may enjoy it for precisely that reason." Charles R. Morris, The New York Times Book Review
"The book has an uneven quality, as if it has started out to be something else. Nevertheless, Landes summons up enough evidence to make his central point: Loyalty devoted to a common purpose is a prime mover in the dynamics of capitalism." Los Angeles Times
Bestselling author and historian Landes scrutinizes the powerful family businesses that rule both the financial and industrial sectors across Europe, Japan, and America to determine what factors can cause a dynasty to flourish or fail.
From the author of the New York Times bestseller The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, a fascinating look at the crossroads of kin and coin
David S. Landes has earned a reputation as a brilliant writer and iconoclast among economic historians. In his latest acclaimed work, he takes a revealing look at the quality that distinguishes a third of today's Fortune 500 companies: family ownership. From the banking fortunes of Rothschild and Morgan to the automobile empires of Ford and Toyota, Landes explores thirteen different dynasties, revealing what lay behind their successes-and how extravagance, bad behavior, and poor enterprise brought some of them to their knees. A colorful history that is full of surprising conclusions, Dynasties is an engrossing mix of ambition, eccentricity, and wealth.
About the Author
David S. Landes is professor emeritus of history and economics at Harvard and author of the bestseller The Wealth and Poverty of Nations. His other books include Bankers and Pashas, The Unbound Prometheus, and Revolution in Time.
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