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Research Details

Wilbur-Ellis: Shaping the Board's Role in Continuity

Abstract

This case concerns the efforts of a multigenerational family business to leverage and benefit from the board on key related issues: succession of the CEO, chair, and other leadership roles; engagement of the fourth generation as future owners and potential business and governance leaders; preservation of the family's unity, primarily through fair and transparent practices and processes. In early 2023, multibillion-dollar Wilbur-Ellis was more than 100 years old, with product lines including agribusiness, nutrition, and chemicals. Third-generation family member and CEO John Thacher had overseen organic and acquisition-based revenue growth, along with professionalization of the board, before transitioning to executive chair in 2018 and handing off operating leadership to nonfamily CEO John Buckley. Together, these leaders, along with the full board and family council (led by third-generation family member Matthew Rowland), had helped the business and family navigate multiple transitions, most recently the merger of Wilbur-Ellis's Asian chemical subsidiary into a global specialty distribution business. Readers will take the leaders' perspective as they consider how best to maintain continuity and engagement amid imminent business, governance, and family transitions.

Type

Case

Author(s)

Jennifer Pendergast, Sachin Waikar

Date Published

11/21/2023

Discipline

Family Business

Key Concepts

Business management, Business structure, Corporate governance, Employee engagement, Family businesses, Leadership and managing people, Leadership qualities, Leadership styles, Leadership transitions, Leadership vision

Citations

Pendergast, Jennifer, and Sachin Waikar. Wilbur-Ellis: Shaping the Board's Role in Continuity. Case 5-423-753 (KE1297).

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