Family Business Disputes- Expanding Your Mediation Practice

Family Business Disputes- Expanding Your Mediation Practice

Guest writer Richard Lutringer is is moderating a discussion with panelists Prof. Peter Begalla, Warren von C. Baker and Matthew Caras at the 2013 ACR Annual Conference

Why can’t siblings in a family business “just get along”?

What would it mean in the eyes of each sibling to be treated “fairly” by parents?  

Without a family culture of open and honest communication, it is not surprising that generational and personality differences can result in misperceptions of “fairness” between parents and their children as well as among siblings. The inability of some families to deal frankly with the founder’s mortality coupled with a history of managing intra-family rivalries and disagreements by “keeping the lid on”, often dooms a smooth transition of a family business to the next generation.

How can mediators help ?

Whether in the context of pre-transition sessions or a crisis intervention months or even years after the formal transition has occurred, mediation techniques deal with misunderstandings, miscommunications and long-suppressed hurt feelings that may underlie a family member’s inability to make rational business decisions with their siblings. Mediators can foster an atmosphere of listening and understanding of that which has been previously unspoken. If engaged prior to the transition, mediators can assist the parties, not only in clearing the air, but also in finding options that retain all parties concept of “fairness”. With the parties’ legal counsel the appropriate vehicles can be created and transactions documented to insure a future format that is capable of dealing with enduring conflict as it appears and reappears in the future.

At the workshop session to be held at the 2013 ACR Conference the presenters, an academic in the area of family business and three mediators experienced in dealing with family business issues, will share with participants different perspectives of real life family enterprise conflict as they play out in three of the most common scenarios : the small family business approaching transition of ownership, the second generation mid-sized sibling partnership and the larger, “cousin consortium”, often with dispersed family ownership and professional management.

At the workshop, all participants, and particularly those with experience in commercial or family disputes, will learn how they can apply their existing mediation and facilitative tools in an area which is expanding as baby boomers with a family business face succession decisions.

The workshop, entitled “Family Business Disputes:  How Mediation Techniques can help Prevent Generational and Sibling Conflict from Killing the Proverbial Goose” will take place on Friday, October 11 at 10:30 am.  

Richard Lutringer 

Richard Lutringer mediates commercial disputes in New York City, concentrating on disputes involving personal investors, corporations, LLC’s, LLP’s and partnerships, including disputes among owners of small and family-owned businesses and probate disputes among family members. Email :

Warren von C. Baker has mediated commercial, family, family enterprises, employment, elder and health disputes. Currently a senior partner in the Chicago Office of Drinker Biddle & Reath,he is a member of the Family Firm Institute and of the ACR’s Commercial, Elder Family, Workplace and Health Care sections. Email :

Matthew L. Caras provides services in Maine and throughout the country as a neutral mediator and negotiation facilitator for complex mergers and acquisitions. Formerly, he practiced commercial law with Verrill Dana LLP. Email :






J. Peter Begalla is a family business consultant, with a background in mental health counseling who has taught since 2003 in Stetson University’s School of Business Administration, Family Enterprise Center . Email :

Joshua Nacht is a family-enterprise steward, scholar, and consultant. He is a co-owner of two separate family enterprises and serves on the Board of Directors at Bird Technologies. Joshua is currently pursuing his PhD. at Saybrook University, where his area of specialization is in family-enterprise systems. email:


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