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Herschend Enterprises: Unifying and Communicating the Voice of Ownership


In November 2019, the Herschend Enterprises board of directors prepared to elect its first family chair in nearly 20 years. The business, incorporated in 1960, owned and operated a number of US-based theme parks and other entertainment offerings, including Silver Dollar City, Dollywood, and the Harlem Globetrotters. Governed by a majority independent board and run by a nonfamily CEO, the Herschend family had made the transition to an active and engaged but largely hands-off ownership group.

Now, the third- and fourth-generation ownership group struggled with the appropriate place and process for providing input on company direction. Trusted independent directors, many with tenures of 25 years or more, had dominated the board until they had begun to transition off over the past three years. A newly formed owners' council was beginning to take on the responsibility of consolidating the owners' voices. Yet next-generation family leadership was concentrated in a small number of family members who filled slots on the family council, owners' council, and board.

What is the line between the responsibility of the owners and the board on key decisions, such as who chairs the board and who serves on the owners' council? How should the owners' council engage the broader ownership group? What is the appropriate profile for owners' council members?




Justin B. Craig, Jennifer Pendergast, Sachin Waikar

Date Published



Family Business


Craig, Justin B., Jennifer Pendergast, and Sachin Waikar. Herschend Enterprises: Unifying and Communicating the Voice of Ownership. Case 5-121-006.


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