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6 Famous Family Businesses Gone Terribly Wrong

"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."—Leo Tolstoy, "Anna Karenina"

Many of the most famous and successful businesses in the U.S. are family-owned. Wal-Mart, Ford Motor and News Corp. are about as big as they come, and despite recessions, fluctuating consumer tastes and bursting bubbles, these companies have always kept it in the family.

When things go well, working with family can be extremely rewarding. Selena S. Cuffe is president and CEO of Heritage Link Brands, a company she co-founded with her husband that transforms African products into global brands. She conceded that toiling alongside family brings challenges but had mostly positive things to say.

"You trust the people you're working with," Cuffe said in an email. "Everyone is more invested than if they were at just 'a job.' The staff's mindset is much more entrepreneurial, authentic and strategic … [and] you are surrounded by people you actually enjoy!"

Don Arden And Sharon Osbourne

Don Arden was a British music impresario who managed Black Sabbath and Electric Light Orchestra, two of the most popular rock bands of the 1970s. Singer Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath in 1979, but Arden continued to run the band while also signing the newly solo vocalist to his label, Jet Records. Arden's daughter, Sharon, had been working for her father, but by 1982 she was both wife and manager to the ascendant singer.

Things went sour when Sharon Osbourne tried to break Ozzy's contract with Jet and sign him to a different label. Arden sued her in a case eventually settled out of court. He walked away with $1 million, but the legal action damaged his relationship with his daughter so severely that the two didn't speak for almost 20 years. Arden died in 2007.

Noel Gallagher And Liam Gallagher

Oasis was a British rock group best known for the 1995 song "Wonderwall," which peaked at No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard chart. The group featured lead singer Liam Gallagher and his brother Noel on guitar, and according to the U.K.'s The Guardian, they had a history of public feuding and physical brawling—onstage and offstage—that plagued their entire career.
The final straw came on Aug. 28, 2009, before a festival appearance in Paris, when Liam allegedly broke his brother's guitar. The band never performed, and Noel took to its website to announce his permanent departure.

"I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer," he said. He went on to form Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, while Liam put together the group Beady Eye.

Kit Culkin And Macaulay Culkin

Kid actor Macaulay Culkin starred in the 1990 hit film "Home Alone." Kit Culkin, a former child actor himself, was his son's manager. According to New York magazine, he secured a rate of $8 million per film for his megastar child, who characterized his dad as "a screamer" and "an intimidator." When the parents began divorce proceedings, the question of which one would control Macaulay's fortune became a point of contention.
'According to The Chicago Tribune, the issue was resolved by Manhattan Supreme Court Judge David Saxe, who severed the professional relationship between father and son, and put the family accountant in charge of the actor's money until he turned 18.

Sadly, the legal problems drove a persistent wedge between father and son, and a 2012 article in the U.K.'s Daily Mail said that they have not spoken in the decade and a half since the dispute.

Chris Hutcheson And Gordon Ramsay

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey is renowned for yelling at hapless restaurateurs on the television show "Hell's Kitchen." His father-in-law, Chris Hutcheson, was his business partner, but according to the U.K. publication The Telegraph, that arrangement ended in October 2010 when the chef fired him for allegedly taking money from the business for "personal use"—suspected to be the financing of multiple extramarital affairs.

Hutcheson sued his son-in-law for unfair dismissal and unpaid wages. The whole story came ended last year, when the two parties reached a settlement out of court.

Beyoncé Knowles And Mathew Knowles

Since she was one-third of the singing group Destiny's Child, Beyoncé Knowles has been one of the biggest recording stars in the world. Her father, Mathew Knowles, managed that group and continued to manage Beyoncé when she went solo, but she fired him in 2011. Documents filed in District Court in Harris County, Tex., indicate that she believed he had taken money to which he was not entitled.

Mathew filed his own petition, alleging that the concert promoter Live Nation had contrived this story to force him out.

"Upon information and belief, after failing to secure the rights to Beyoncé's world tour, Live Nation agents or representatives made statements to Beyoncé, alleging that [Knowles] had stolen money from Beyoncé on her most recent tour or otherwise taken funds," it said. A representative from Live Nation had no comment.

Still, Mathew Knowles seems to have taken his ouster in stride, if his statement to The Associated Press is any indication. "Business is business and family is family," he said. "I love my daughter and am very proud of who she is and all that she has achieved."


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