Trouble in the house of Carlson

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Most days, I envy the super-rich. Today isn't one of them. I read a disturbing story in the Minneapolis newspaper (www.startribune.com) about the terrible family feud going on in the house of Carlson. Curtis Carlson, grandson of company founder Curt Carlson and son of current CEO Marilyn Carlson Nelson, recently filed a lawsuit against the company and his mother, alleging that she reneged on a promise that he would succeed her as chief of the multi-billion-dollar hospitality, foodservice, travel and marketing company. Marilyn, 67, originally was set to retire two years ago, and many in the industry assumed Curtis would succeed her. The 43-year-old joined the company in 1989 and worked his way up to president of operations until the company board fired him last year.

Now in a countersuit, the company and board claims Curtis failed, as he promised, to remain "clean and sober" during a leave of absence from the company in 2003. Curtis has had health problems for years, culminating in a liver transplant in 2000. He admits his alcoholism and dependence on prescription drugs but argues that he's capable to take the CEO job as he was promised.

According to the court filings, he's received multi-million-dollar severance payments following his termination and presumably holds a big chunk of ownership of the private company. Yet, as we all know but seldom think about, there's more to life than money. All of us with healthy and happy family relationships should take a lesson from this sordid tale.

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