Anecdotal stories are always fun, so this week we’re looking at three famous business partnerships that didn’t last. Filed under the heading of “cautionary tales,” these partnerships definitely didn’t go to plan. Each story showcases different problems, but there’s a central takeaway. No matter how small your company is now, prepare for the worst when you start out. When you embark on a joint venture, you never know what success the future will bring.
Put another way: Plan the divorce before you finalize the marriage. Read on for some examples of what not to do when you’re setting up a new business partnership.
Eduardo Saverin and Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
Saverin and Zuckerberg famously met at Harvard and collaborated on the first iteration of Facebook. Ultimately, they founded the business together. But they soon disagreed on the company’s direction. Zuckerberg felt Saverin wasn’t committed enough. He reduced Saverin’s shares leading to a contentious legal battle. This is a great example of partners who simply weren’t prepared to work together. And without a plan to dissolve their partnership, they ended up settling out of court. According to Eduardo, there are no hard feelings, though.
Sandy Weill and Jamie Dimon – Citigroup
Weill was Dimon’s mentor, and together they were titans of the financial industry. Everyone, including Weill, thought Dimon would succeed him at Citigroup. Consequently, Weill and his colleagues were caught flat-footed and unprepared when Dimon abruptly left Citi in 1999. It was a classic case of succession planning gone wrong. Weill failed to recognize his protégé’s dissatisfaction with waiting his turn to be CEO. Eventually, Dimon left to become chairman of JPMorgan Chase. Today, Weill sees the break-up as one of his biggest mistakes.
Burt and Lovey Handelsman’s Real Estate Empire
A business partnership that’s also a marriage is a whole different animal. Burt and Lovey—now 89 and 88 respectively—built a real estate empire in Florida and New York. The business they built is valued in excess of $750 million. Burt did the heavy lifting, but Lovey was there from the beginning working on establishing the business. Burt’s love affair with his attorney led to chaos in the family and a looming divorce. Moving forward is difficult, though. The complexity of the couple’s overlapping business interests and financial affairs is a potent argument for not letting “business” and “personal” are too intermingled.
So what’s the moral of these three stories? No matter who your partner is, don’t let dissolution take you by surprise. Plan now, so you can both focus on success without worry.
Get off your duff!
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