25 December 2023
A UBS study reveals that billionaires are increasingly accumulating wealth through inheritance rather than entrepreneurship, highlighting the growing trend of the great wealth transfer.
The landscape of billionaire wealth is shifting, as a UBS study reveals that the next generation of billionaires will be those who inherit multigenerational family wealth rather than self-made entrepreneurs. The study shows that in the past year alone, 53 heirs have inherited a staggering $150.8 billion, surpassing the $140.7 billion created by 84 new self-made billionaires. This wealth transfer has significant implications for businesses and brands whose founders want to ensure the preservation of their life’s work. As baby boomers age, there is a growing desire to help the next generation manage their inheritance while also fearing that they may squander their legacy. One example of a family business successfully navigating this transition is the Charles Krug winery in Napa Valley, which has evolved over four generations to maintain its 75-year family legacy.
The Charles Krug Estate: A Family Legacy
The Charles Krug winery, founded in 1943, is the oldest winery in Napa Valley. The family’s journey began when Cesare Mondavi, the grandfather of Peter Mondavi Jr., immigrated to New York City in 1908. Cesare worked as a broker, securing grapes for Italian immigrants who made their own house wines. This experience eventually led the family to Napa Valley, where they acquired the Charles Krug Winery. When Cesare passed away, Peter Mondavi Sr. and his brother Robert inherited the business. However, Robert eventually left to start his own company, leaving Peter Sr. as the sole owner of Charles Krug Winery.
Preparing the Next Generation
Peter Mondavi Jr. and his brother Marc, the third generation, were exposed to the family business from a young age. They worked odd summer jobs in hospitality and the vineyards, gaining a deep understanding of the ground-level aspects of the business. Over time, they became more involved, with Peter Jr. joining the company full-time after college. When Robert Mondavi decided to cash out, Peter Sr. gave his sons the option to do the same or continue with the business. They chose to continue, taking on the responsibility of co-proprietors.
Evolving the Business
After taking over, Peter Jr. and Marc split the operation of the company by brands, with Peter Jr. handling the Charles Krug brand and Marc overseeing the CK Mondavi brand. This division allowed each brother to bring their unique skills and expertise to their respective brands, ensuring the continued success of the business.
Preparing the Fourth Generation
As the fourth generation became more involved in the family business, the Mondavi family established explicit family governance. Recognizing the need to educate the younger generation as owners and shareholders, they developed a structure using a “family office” approach. This family office aims to sustainably grow and transfer the branded wine business across generations, ensuring continuous family ownership. Members of the third and fourth generations hold various roles within the company, from positions in the winery to brand ambassadors and board members. By requiring family members to gain experience both within and outside the business, the Mondavi family ensures a well-rounded understanding of the company’s operations.
Passing Down Multigenerational Wealth
Inheriting billions may not necessarily mean inheriting a desire to be part of the family business. Succession planning becomes crucial in such cases, as heirs may have ideas about changing the business to leave their mark on the family legacy. Marguerite Weese, COO of Wilmington Trust’s Emerald Family Office & Advisory, emphasizes the distinction between employment in the family business and ownership. Family businesses often serve as the glue that keeps the family together, but as generations pass, a family office structure can step in to manage wealth and maintain cohesion. Family offices provide dedicated in-house staff, including lawyers, accountants, and wealth managers, to ensure smooth wealth management and maintain privacy and confidentiality.
Continuing the Family Legacy
For the Mondavi family, continuing the family legacy is of utmost importance. The fourth generation is actively involved in putting together a charter that will guide future generations, preserving the family culture while allowing for a flexible management structure. This approach ensures that the family’s values and traditions are upheld while adapting to the changing times.
As the UBS study reveals, the next generation of billionaires will largely be those who inherit multigenerational family wealth. This trend has significant implications for businesses and brands that want to ensure the preservation of their legacy. The Charles Krug winery serves as a prime example of a family business successfully navigating this transition. By preparing the next generation and implementing explicit family governance, the Mondavi family has ensured the continued success of their business across four generations. As the great wealth transfer gains momentum, businesses and families must adapt and plan for the future to preserve their legacies for generations to come.