July 10, 2023: Behind closed doors: Family members share their personal journeys

Bob.Allen
Jul 06, 2023
9 months ago
Collage of young family office members
Credit: KRISTINA RUOTOLO

Kristen_small

We’re celebrating something special here at Crain Currency — our first anniversary! We began our publication a year ago to amplify voices in the family office community. We’ll be celebrating all July long on our LinkedIn page. Engage with us there!

It’s only fitting that in this week’s lead story, we speak with several key next-gen family members who have taken on active roles within their respective family businesses. 

What’s special about this piece is the candor of this rising generation of family members. No longer are they afraid to speak about their experiences, which will only enhance the experience for the generation behind them.

And finally, I share an article about my time spent with Salvatore Ferragamo Jr. on a recent trip to Tuscany. As a third-generation family business member who forged his own path, deviating from the family’s core business in the fashion industry, he shares his journey within his famous family and what he has planned for his wine and hospitality business.

As always, we appreciate any comments, ideas and insights that would make this newsletter more useful. I look forward to growing this family office community with your help. Please email me at [email protected].

 

HANDPICKED: Behind closed doors: Family members tell us why they joined the family business 

For next-gen family office members, one of the biggest decisions is whether to join the family business. The process can be exciting but also emotionally fraught, full of expectations as well as the potential for disappointment. And for some, it can be an enormous comfort and a confidence booster — a sign of trust that you can carry on the family legacy.

To understand more about what goes into this decision and the challenges and opportunities inherent in joining the family business, we talked with several next-gen family members — a brother and sister who took different paths before making the leap, two brothers whose careers have mirrored each other, and an oldest child who followed her father across the Atlantic.

CEM AND MERT ZORLULAR

Cem Zorlular
Cem Zorlular

Cem is the CEO and his younger brother Mert the CFO of Er-Kim Pharmaceutical, their family’s pharmaceutical company in Turkey.  

What made you go into the family business?

Cem: Previously, I worked at a consulting company and then joined tech giant Palantir on the commercial side. Our decision to join the family business and return to our native Istanbul was driven by circumstance. We have a very small family, and after the death of our father, our 85-year-old grandfather decided he no longer wanted to oversee the business. And they came to me. It felt like a calling. I said I would kick myself if I didn’t do it. 

Mert: My background is in finance and engineering, and I also worked at Palantir. Then Cem convinced me to move to Turkey. He had a very large scope, and many things needed to be optimized. Because of my finance background, he thought that would be ideal for me. I was not excited at first, but when he talked about his broader vision for the company, I was sold.

Cem: Since we were young children, they instilled in us this concept of needing to work together. 

Mert: Eventually, we would join the company, but it was a matter of time and age. We wanted to stand on our own two feet before joining so we could be bolder when doing things, as opposed to being trained. 

How is it going so far?

Cem: We want to take it from a regional company to a global company; so we are working on building that international footprint, addressing the frictions and trying to make us as nimble as possible — which can be challenging with pharmaceuticals, given the supply chain issues and regulatory issues. 

Mert Zorlular
Mert Zorlular

Our grandfather gave the company to us, saying: “I will be here if you need mentoring, but all the mistakes are for you to make.” When he felt that we were doing something wrong, he would say he disagreed, and that allowed us to learn from it.

Any advice for next-gen members pondering the same decision?

Cem: Ask yourself: How passionate about the business are you? Because family businesses require a lot of involvement and interest. Two, do I have an area of responsibility that I am accountable for? Then, how am I going to manage my relationships with family members? How do I build that transparency and honesty, where there are egos involved? Family businesses fail when people don’t get along.

 

RACHEL GELB AND JOSHUA GOLDBERG 

The sister and brother co-workers both serve in senior roles at GYL Financial Synergies, an investment advisory firm that manages $8.5 billion for prominent clients, including 10 family offices. 

What made you go into the family business?
Rachel Gelb
Rachel Gelb

Joshua: I’ve always been interested in the markets and wealth management. And I started working at larger firms as a broker-dealer, but the mindset is a little different than the RIA space. The goals are different here. We are only for the clients, and there is a huge focus on culture and community, which is more aligned with my goals and objectives.

Rachel: My background is actually in human resources. I worked at a hospital in their retirement section, but only for one year. Coming here, I felt a sense of ownership. It was exciting to work together and work on creating the best place to work and have a tremendous impact on the community. 

It’s helpful that we gained experience at other places that we could bring with us. I think it was very good to spend some time not with family. I was originally more reluctant to go down that route because you want to make your own way in the world.

Did you have any doubts or concerns before taking that step?

Rachel: Definitely. We all hear these horror stories about joining a family business. For myself, it’s only enhanced our relationship to see my father and brother doing really well. 

Joshua Goldberg
Joshua Goldberg

Joshua: Our father is very driven and successful, and there was definitely a little bit of concern that maybe not all the personalities would match. What would this do to our relationships going forward? Fortunately, it’s been great. I call him by his first name in the office. We’re not always 100% overlapping in what we do day to day, and we’re more family-oriented on the weekends. Hey, we’re still talking! 

Do you have a succession plan in place?

Joshua: We have 14 partners in place, I’m the most recent one, and there are a lot of redundancies in the roles. It’s really important to have that in place, to be part of the succession. We plan on being here for the duration. I want it to be the firm of the future, not just today, to build a legacy.

 

CELINE WINTER

The 24-year-old is the director of business development at W5 Group, the family office of her global real estate entrepreneur father, Ralph Winter. 

What made you go into the family business?
Celine Winter
Celine Winter

What happened was he couldn’t really retire. When he moved to Miami in 2014, he thought he could start all over, but the business followed him. When COVID hit, I was stuck in Switzerland and decided to get my master’s degree in sustainability at the University of Miami. I started to work at my favorite coffee shop, Pura Vida, where I created a sustainability strategy. I knew the owner, and I knew that he wanted to become more sustainable. For example, with sustainable sourcing, we stopped using plastic straws, used recycled bags and got involved in community efforts. 

But I needed a job, so I got more involved at my father’s office. Started attending meetings. And at one point, my Dad said, “Maybe we should set up a contract, and you could do what you did before — sustainability consulting — for our business?” 

And I thought, I can do this. I grew up around the business since I was a little girl and hearing my Dad conduct meetings. 

And how is it going?

I tried to combine the thing that I love with my family legacy as next-gen. I felt that was the way to go. At the beginning, I thought it would be hard. My father is not always an easy man to work with. But to be honest, it’s been great. I have much younger siblings, and I want to make them proud of the company, for them to step in someday. 

We started to invest in co-living residential developments, where there are four bedrooms that share a common area. Every building has some kind of sustainability certification, LEED-certified. We are developing rental apartments that will be reduced in price for people with disabilities and also getting into student housing.  

Of course I had concerns in the beginning. Real estate is a very old, white-collar business run by men over the age of 60. But my dad put me on my own from the beginning, pushed me in the cold water, pushed me to go to conferences. It’s a journey.

 

Salvatore Ferragamo Jr. delves into wine, hospitality and 30 years of Il Borro

By KRISTEN OLIVERI

I met Salvatore Ferragamo Jr. on a sunny day in Italy in the courtyard of Il Borro, his flagship destination wine resort in the heart of Tuscany. He approached the table as I was sipping a perfectly executed cappuccino, with church bells echoing in the background.

In that moment, it dawned on me that these very church bells were ringing from down the road in the medieval village that the Ferragamos also own. I assumed that he couldn’t have possibly timed that on purpose, but either way, he sure knew how to make an entrance.

This wasn’t our first meeting. I’ve worked with Ferragamo in the past on various family office efforts, talking about how he, as a third-generation family member of the Ferragamos, has charted his own course within the main family business.

Ferragamo Jr. is the oldest child of Ferruccio Ferragamo, the son of Italian fashion legend Salvatore Ferragamo. Interestingly, Ferragamo Jr. is a twin; and his brother, James, has stayed within the family’s core business, managing Salvatore Ferragamo’s men’s and women’s leather products division.

Ferragamo Jr., however, was looking to do something different — something in wine and hospitality. Educated stateside at NYU for both his undergrad and MBA, he studied the art of marketing and international business.

“The wine growing came naturally,” Ferragamo said with a smile.

The Il Borro property was purchased by the Ferragamo family holding company in 1993 originally for hunting. As the years went by and after Ferragamo gained his own experience in hospitality, he and his father began to see that the property, in fact, was the perfect place to plant grapes. With mountains to one side and a valley to another, there was this serendipitous opportunity that began to take shape. They knew they were able to plant both indigenous Italian grape varietals like sangiovese and international varietals like syrah.

So the family got to work building a beautiful wine resort, he explained, hosting guests from around the world. Alongside his sister, Vittoria, the duo created what they believe to be a unique, high-end experience coupled with true Italian hospitality, a hallmark of the region.

As the brand continued to innovate over the years, in 2015 they made a bold move: They decided to become a 100% organic agricultural estate, promoting sustainability through their accommodations and wine portfolio.

While the sustainability program began to flourish, Ferragamo turned his attention to another Tuscan family property with the hopes of restoring it to its former glory. In 2019, he opened the doors of Viesca, which was originally purchased by his grandmother Wanda Ferragamo back in 1950. She worked tirelessly to repair and restore the property, which became her passion project.

“She would leave her desk in Florence on her lunch break and drive out 25 minutes to check on Viesca every day,” Ferragamo recounted.  

To honor his grandmother’s legacy, he decided to do the same, breathing new life into the family property. Today, it operates as a luxury hotel offering both suites and stand-alone villas that were once part of the Ferragamos’ family retreats. It has an on-site osteria offering breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a newly opened full-service spa that is aptly decorated with beautiful Ferragamo artwork throughout.

Viesca caters to family travelers who may be interested in extended stays in their villas, Ferragamo said. It also offers curated experiences like cooking classes, wine tastings, wellness classes, truffle hunting and a shuttle that goes back and forth to the Il Borro estate.

Even with the expansion of Viesca and taking Il Borro to international heights by expanding in Dubai, London and Crete, the family’s hospitality journey has come full circle. This year marks Il Borro’s 30th anniversary. The property is showcasing an on-site wine and art gallery coined 1993-2023 Il Borro — An  Enduring Act of Faith throughout the year.

While Ferragamo spends most of his time on the road visiting the brand’s international destinations and with his clients of the Il Borro wine brand, he always feels most at peace when he’s at home in Tuscany.

Il Borro is more than just a hotel to him, he said. “It’s my home.”

 

LOOSE CHANGE

To celebrate hip-hop's 50th anniversary, Sotheby's auctions off Tupac ring: As part of its third annual hip-hop auction, Sotheby's is offering a gold, ruby, and diamond crown ring designed by the late Tupac Shakur. It's expected to go for $200,000 to $300,000 when bidding opens July 18.

Singapore is set to change tax rules that attracted single family offices: The city state will tweak the tax incentives to encourage firms to invest in climate-related projects and undertake more philanthropy through Singapore, Bloomberg reports.

International school worth close to $1 billion turns CEO into multimillionaire: Demand from Chinese students to attend SISB Pcl has soared, with the number enrolled more than doubling in March compared with a year earlier. The school's CEO, Kelvin Koh, has a stake of about 32% in the school, and the surge has boosted its value to around $300 million.

Help us with a story: We are working on a story about the evolution of the family office structure over the Past decade. If you have any comments on the topic, reach out to [email protected]