M&A is back. After a couple of years of stagnation, deal flow has increased markedly in the first six months of 2010 and family businesses around the world are, as usual, right at the forefront.
But as we demonstrate in our special report that starts on page 16, the market is a different beast to what it once was. The size of the deals are much more modest than at their height in 2007, while the confidence of families in emerging markets, and in India in particular, is growing. Both these factors collide in the largest M&A deal involving a family company – Reliance Communications' creation of the world's largest independent telecom infrastructure company.
You know the world has changed when the Ambani brothers put their constant feuding to one side. The scrapping of their non-competition agreements means Mukesh and Anil can now concentrate on competing for future business – a much more healthy pursuit than competing over past family grievances.
The world might finally begin to see the true potential of the Ambani empire, which stretches from the current battle in the telecommunications field to traditional industry and energy, and of Indian family business more generally.
A hop over the Bay of Bengal from India will lead you to another Asian family business that has made a virtue out of its geography. Royal Selangor is one of Malaysia's most respected family businesses and the world's largest pewter maker.
Over the years it has transformed itself from a company that made trinkets for Chinese worshippers into one that provides trophies and sponsorship to the ATP Masters tennis and Formula One. Constant evolution to ensure they move with the times while, at the same time, never forgetting their family roots and values have been key to their success.
This year, the company is celebrating its 125th anniversary and as general manager Yong Yoon Li exclusively tells us on page 28, family ownership has helped the business during difficult times of late."We take a long-term view and we're inherently less eager to spend during hard times," says Yoon Li, great grandson of the founder. "In general there is also better employee loyalty in a family business."
Loyalty is certainly something that Lluis Bonet Ferrer, family chairman of Spain-based winemakers Freixenet, can relate to. Bonet has been part of the company's top management since the mid-1960s, but it was only in 1997 that he was granted official membership to the board.
And it was only last year his uncle, Josep Ferrer Sala, a sprightly octogenarian who had been at the head of the firm since 1957, finally decided to take a back seat and fully hand over the reins to his nephew who is well into his 60s.
Time, as ever, is something that has a different meaning in the family business world and longevity can produce industry-leading companies, as well as chairmen and CEOs with a wealth of experience and in-house knowledge.
Jonathan Neame is the fifth-generation CEO of the UK's oldest brewer that traces its roots back to the early 1700s. Jonathan was keen to highlight the role of all his family when I asked whom he most admired, but eventually plumped for his great-great-grandfather.
"He took a relatively small company, tripled beer production, tripled the number of pubs that the company owned, hugely increased the geographical reach of the products and began exporting to India, Hong Kong and Tasmania," explained the CEO. You can read our full, exclusive interview on page 32.
All three of our family profiles this issue will give you some food for thought on how to manage your own family company. In covering both a wide range of industries, geographies and generation of ownership, they reflect the very best of what family business has to offer.
Enjoy the issue.