Family businesses

Across the world family businesses like yours are the foundation on which economies are built. Many of the most well-known business stories are or were originally family concerns, and the unique dynamics of family businesses can often be the driving source of their success.

Our family business clients include large international businesses, smaller domestic companies and everything in between, across a variety of industry sectors. We understand that the focus of a family business may frequently differ from other kinds of enterprises. Though all are committed to commercial growth, family businesses are also often looking at longer-term goals, and are celebrated by their clients for that ethos of sustainability and distinct family values.

Understanding the overlap between corporate and personal issues

With our private client heritage we are particularly well placed to help integrate both the corporate and personal aspects of your family life. Whether that’s the interplay between corporate and personal tax, or advising on the potentially delicate issues surrounding business succession from one generation to the next, we have helped a huge number of family businesses maintain their success around the world.

We approach your situation with a rounded view of every kind of issue you may face, and all of the objectives you are looking to achieve. Our knowledge and experience can be of service in areas such as corporate structuring, regulatory oversight, family and business governance, and business succession planning, as well as more traditional corporate, finance, tax and wealth planning matters.

Experienced at resolving family disputes

Our dispute resolution team is well-prepared to advise on commercial disputes within the family, as well as on more specialist issues such as family trust litigation. Front of mind for us is the fact that although it may be necessary to go to court, it is rarely in a family’s interest to have its private affairs dragged into the public arena. We will therefore do all we can to resolve disputes via alternative routes such as mediation, in order to reach a satisfactory outcome while maintaining discretion and confidentiality.

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2019 STEP Winner: International Legal Team of the Year (large firm)

Ranked in Band 1 for private client for the last 16 years

Winner of best wealth planning team in South-East Asia

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US / UK interests

We assisted a family in efficient structuring of the family's business activities in the US and the UK as well as their family charitable foundation. The unique nature of our US team based in London enabled us to provide both the UK and US advice on the structuring and charitable foundation under one roof.

Managing wealth between generations

Assisted a UK based family whose business is in the second/third generation on creation of wealth planning structures, including family limited partnerships, primarily for the purposes of enabling the elder generation to pass on shares in the family business to the younger generation without passing on complete control of the business until such time as the younger generation had proved their credentials.

Multi generational South East Asia family

We were instructed by this family, consisting of several members spanning two generations, in relation to setting up a private trust company structure (PTC). The PTC acts as a trustee of a master trust to hold the family office, family business and family investment entity. The beneficiaries of the master trust were a series of "feeder" trusts established for the benefit of each of the family members and their respective families together with a number of charitable entities. In addition, we advised the family on establishing a sophisticated governance structure, including a family council and family constitution.

A multi-generational family owned business

When multiple generations of a family are involved in a business together, the issues can become complex. Withers has a strong track record in this area so when a family-owned business approached us, we were able to address their needs. We helped with inheritance tax planning for the senior generation as well as the separation of assets between the three generations involved. The planning included reclassifying shares, paying a dividend and a de-merger of the business.

British rural estate

Providing advice to the trustees and family members who own and run the estate on all tax and structuring matters, including succession planning. Recently, we advised on the structuring for the sale of land for development both from a tax and planning perspective. We also created a new LLP to own and run the estate, to help achieve the family's aims in involving family members in decision-making and succession planning.

UK child entitled to cross-border estate

We acted for the son of a deceased German businessman who was entitled to a share of a cross-border estate worth in excess of £35m. The case raised complex conflict of law issues over the deceased's Will and arguments from some of the heirs that the son had no entitlement. We co-ordinated simultaneous proceedings in England and Germany and the case was ultimately settled out of court.

Swiss-based family office in a corporate control contest

We represented a Swiss-based family office in a corporate control contest involving a California-based US$500 million private company in the coatings business. The company has an independent Board of Directors and is owned by three significant minority owners and widely dispersed current and former employees. Our work involved M&A, corporate governance, finance, complex contracts, tax and offensive corporate litigation. We drew on our New Haven, Greenwich and Los Angeles lawyers and implemented a partial contingent billing arrangement.

Clients in Chile, Mexico and Venezuela

Advised clients with cross-border interests in relation to the construction of private trust company structures, which effectively allowed for family business succession planning, cost reduction and greater control over certain trust decisions and tax minimization in the jurisdiction of domicile and internationally.

Planning and restructuring of an Italian wine producer group

Assisted the majority shareholder of one of the most prestigious Italian wine producers with the planning and restructuring of their Group, which entails corporate governance and share ownership aspects, as well as an inheritance perspective. Our advice focuses mainly on the drafting and implementing of a framework agreement and ancillary documents, such as a complex shareholders agreement.

Family-owned group reorganisation and ownership transition

Assisted a family-owned group leader in the collection and processing of grains and oil seeds for foods, animal feeds and industrial use with the reorganisation of the parent company and its Italian and foreign subsidiaries as well as on a complex project related to the generational transition of the group ownership and governance, which comprises several company, tax and inheritance law aspects.

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