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Letting Family Members Go

Is it possible to fire a family member without inciting a feud?

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This story appears in the July 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Family breakups rarely go smoothly, but when a family business fires a family member, it can wreak lasting havoc on personal and business relationships alike. This year, a company founded by media entrepreneur Sumner Redstone is being sued by the billionaire's son, who alleges the elder Redstone forced him off the Viacom Inc. board and passed him over for promotions in favor of his sister. The son wants the company, which controls CBS and Viacom, sold so he can free up his stake, which he values at $1.3 billion.

More than being intense, animosities tied to a family business firing sometimes prove extraordinarily long-lived. A son of the founders of Goya Foods Inc. began a legal wrangle that continued for three decades after he was fired in 1969 for speaking out about an alleged tax-evasion scheme. Once started, the troubles can spread: Just last year, another son was forced out of Goya's top spot by members of the third generation.

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