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From Cult to Crisis: A New Vulnerability in Wealthy Families

The pandemic crisis is forcing the hand of family businesses to address the pace of change in new ways. Every day we must act and even make some tough choices—despite the lack of any reliable information about the best direction to take. Some owners make tough decisions on their own, rather than seeking help from others. Some choose impulsive or blind allegiance pathways.

I wrote the following on the Bloomberg press about the Singh brothers – heirs to an Indian health-care empire – and their relationship with guru Gurinder Singh Dhillon. What makes this interesting is the financial relationship between them, and the dramatic fall in their fortune over the last few months.

It brings to mind another story with plenty more still to happen – that of Clare Bronfman’s involvement with a New York self-help group called Nxivm, which appears to display cult-like behaviour. In addition to Bronfman sisters using their substantial fortunes to underwrite Nxivm in a variety of ways, most recently there have been accusations of criminal behaviour including conspiracy and criminal racketeering, and Ms Bronfman herself has been arrested and is out on USD 100M bail.

Stories like this are a warning bell to wealthy families of their vulnerability to people of all kinds with ulterior and sometimes nefarious motives. Many families employ gatekeepers to protect them, but this is a never-ending game of cat and mouse. Social media and techniques like social engineering can readily be used by protagonists to worm their way in. When it comes to trust, families should observe a healthy (but not obsessive) measure of vigilance.

Consider This: Does your family have policies about the use of social media, and acceptance of ‘friendship’. Do family members have an awareness of spotting ‘hangers on’, and maintaining the right degree of scepticism and vigilance when meeting new people?

Original articles:–collaboration-openness-and-sharing-the-burden/#58b2b7a94e34 and

As a third party advisor to #familyoffice and #familybusiness Werdiger often helps guide the #intergenerational parties to a win-win-win result. Family Business Advisors-Counseling Actionable Generational Wealth Succession. For more in-depth, thought-provoking discussion points and commentary on family and business, sign-up to gain access to the archives of my Family Matters newsletter: or book a call or speaking engagement at influenced and partly based on the Book E-Myth Revisited case study.

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