The Family Business Program at Columbia Business School and Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), which operates the oldest and largest privately held bank in the United States, have announced a new partnership for the 2016–17 academic year. The partnership includes a gift from BBH that will provide crucial seed money to develop and scale the Family Business Program. The funds will enable the program to move forward with immediate plans for curricular development, research, and new student and alumni programming. BBH is the Family Business Program’s founding corporate sponsor.
“The Family Business Program is at a pivotal moment in its history,” notes Michael Preston, the program’s co-director and faculty advisor to the Family Business Club, a student club with over 180 members. “Over the past two years, BBH has been instrumental in the School’s efforts to solidify and expand the Family Business Program by bringing sector expertise and insight into the classroom and by sponsoring the club’s annual conference. This new gift formalizes our partnership and reflects our joint commitment to supporting the next generation of family business leaders.”
“There is a great deal of alignment between the Family Business Program at Columbia Business School and BBH,” says Carter Sullivan ’84, partner and head of corporate advisory and banking at BBH. “Both are part of centuries-old institutions with roots in New York and a global focus and presence; both are entrepreneurial and forward-looking organizations; and both are committed to partnering with and providing value to family businesses and their owners. We look forward to working together on this shared focus.”
BBH also has a special connection to and interest in family business, being one itself, Sullivan adds. “For 10 generations of our own ownership, [BBH] has focused on serving family businesses as they grow, helping transition ownership to future generations and preserving wealth created from those companies. We have been committed to helping family businesses thrive and prosper throughout our history, and through our experience as an owner-managed business, we believe that these companies and owners can gain insights that further enable their success.”
This year, the program will host a new speaker series, the Brown Brothers Harriman Family Business Leadership Speaker Series, which will welcome prominent global family-business leaders and leading academics in the field to campus to interact with students and alumni. This series will be a forum for building the School’s peer network of family business principals. A portion of BBH’s gift also will support new academic research in the field.
“A priority is to foster rigorous academic research on important, understudied topics [related to] family-owned enterprises, including financial, strategic, governance, and valuation issues,” noted Daniel Wolfenzon, the Stefan H. Robock Professor of Finance and Economics and co-director of the Family Business Program. “With support from partners like BBH, we see an opportunity to spearhead new academic inquiry in this area, which in turn will advance the field and enhance understanding beyond academia.”
Currently, the Family Business Program serves as the principal umbrella at Columbia Business School for all activities related to family business management and family enterprises, as well as those who advise and serve them. Since its inception eight years ago as an initiative under the auspices of the Eugene Lang Entrepreneurship Center, the Family Business Program has built a foundation of curricula, events, and other educational programming that enables students to understand the roots of family business dynamics from cultural, psychological, and social viewpoints. In the 2015–16 academic year, the Family Business Program separated from the Lang Center and became a dedicated, formal program of its own, which the School aims to make the preeminent center of its kind in the world. The program’s co-directors — Preston, Wolfenzon, and Patricia Angus Esq. — and Executive-in-Residence Jack Mitchell are in the midst of transforming a cluster of targeted courses into a multidimensional program with research, extracurricular, and executive-education components.