The NY Times reports about how dynastic families may lose the family fortune over time, focusing largely on the Stohs family, which at one time owned the largest private beer company in America.  This is sometimes expressed as the phrase, plow shares to plow shares in three generations.

The article begins as follows:

One of Frances Stroh’s earliest lessons about wealth involved a game she played as a 6-year-old with her father: how to not be kidnapped. Ms. Stroh would stand outside the family’s six-bedroom Spanish Mediterranean home in the manicured Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe in 1973 as her father, Eric Stroh, pretended to be a stranger as he drove by in his silver Chrysler, waving a chocolate bar as temptation and beckoning her to the car. As instructed, Frances would run away in tears.

Her father explained that as an heiress to the largest private beer company in America, kidnapping was a concern, especially because, “They’ll ask for a ransom that we can’t possibly afford to pay,” Ms. Stroh recalled him saying.

“There were very mixed messages” about money, she said in an interview.

Her father’s words about their finances were indeed prescient. The Stroh family wealth, at its height in the 1980s, was estimated by Forbes to be about $9 billion in today’s dollars. Now, that money is almost completely gone.

And Ms. Stroh has taken the rare step, in the secretive world of America’s wealthiest, of going public with her family’s downward spiral in a remarkably intimate book, “Beer Money: A Memoir of Privilege and Loss.” In revealing detail, she documents a trifecta of misfortunes, some of them self-inflicted: the unraveling of her immediate family, shaken by alcohol and drug abuse; the collapse of her family’s brewing empire; and the fall of Detroit, hometown of Stroh’s beer.

The book has struck a nerve in certain circles, and Ms. Stroh says she has received an outpouring of support and commiseration.

“I heard from all kinds of people about lost fortunes, lost businesses, often coupled with substance-abuse issues within the families,” she said. “My story resonated with their own experience because of this lingering sort of sense of something that’s unresolved when a family business is lost.”

See full article at: Losing a Fortune Often Comes Down to One Thing: Family – The New York Times

Posted by Lewis J. Saret, Co-General Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal.