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Family business people to wrestle with ownership strategies (Released: 12/5/95)

by Bridget Wolverton, student writer, Office of University Communications.

STORRS, Conn. -- The fans are screaming, the lights are flashing. Electricity is in the air. No, its not UConn women s basketball, its Wrestlemania! But, in this version, the contenders are the owners of family businesses and the so-called business "experts."

Few people would equate Wrestlemania with business -- even family businesses -- but it s happening Dec. 12, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Farmington Marriott, when the University of Connecticut s Family Business Program hosts an interactive problem-solving workshop, Wrestling With The Experts." The workshop should help solve the problems of a well documented case study of a former business owner, Sam Steinberg, and will follow his family business all the way past his death, including the family's battle for control and the ultimate sale of the company.

This is the eighth in a series of workshops hosted by the Family Business Program, a center within UConn's School of Business Administration, and the first to draw heavily on the wrestling theme in its promotional material. The seminars are designed to bring together family business owners to discuss the joys and pitfalls of family business ownership with the experts, as well as to interact with each other.

Lynn Bowes-Sperry, who teaches organizational behavior and human resources management in UConn s business school, will referee the match, facilitating questions and responses from the blue corner to the red corner.

The Red Corner is reserved for The Challengers, or family business owners who, combined, have hundreds of years of family business expertise spanning numerous industries, markets and size categories represented by workshop attendees and their families.

In the Blue Corner will be The Experts from the family business field, including Phil The Cruncher" Kupperman from Arthur Andersen LLP, a specialist in family accounting, Carl Money Bags" Harris from People s Bank, who specializes in loans to families trying to start their own family business, Paul The Protector" Mariano from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., is an insurance agent who specializes in family business insurance, Craig The Defender" Sylvester from Reid & Riege, P.C. who deals with the legal aspects of family business, and last, but certainly not least, Deadly" Dirk Dreux from U.S. Trust Co., who specializes in activating family business stocks.

The program will feature an interactive format where people from both corners will examine, discuss and resolve a set of challenging problems encountered by a troubled family business. They will also have the opportunity to discuss their analysis and decisions with the experts.

The workshop will explore the early years of growth at Steinberg s Grocery as it became a major force in its industry (worth more than $1 billion), focusing on the complex interaction of family and business issues surrounding growth, succession, finances and wealth. Participants will witness the events that transpired as the company grew; the management approach Steinberg used to deal with ever increasing complexity; and, ultimately, the question of who should succeed him as president. Other issues to be analyzed will deal with succession, Steinberg s death, the resulting series of executives , the battle for control within the family and the sale of the company.

This is a great way to analyze the problems and explore the solutions without the risk," says Richard Dino, director of the program. Dino says many family business owners are relieved when they get together with their colleagues and discover they're not alone.

"You know the old saying, 'You can hear it from the pulpit, but it means more when it's coming from the pew, " he said. Instead of being lectured by experts in the field, the family business programs allow a coming together of the minds.

Dino tries to keep the workshops fun and interesting -- hence the Wrestlemania connection -- so people will also enjoy the informative sessions. Don t you get bored easily?" he said. I know I do. I m a firm believer that if I m going to be in the loop on something, I want to make it interesting."

The main event will take place at The Farmington Marriott, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Family business owners interested in exploring membership in the Family Business Program are welcome to attend the workshop for a fee of $95 for the first person, and $50 for each additional firm member. Current Family Business Program members may send two attendees at no charge. The deadline to register is Friday, Dec. 8. Seating is limited. For more information call Richard Dino at (860) 486-4483.

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