When Brown-Forman stockholders gathered in July at the whiskey giant’s Georgian Revival headquarters west of downtown, the outcome of a crucial vote — re-electing 12 directors to the governing board — was anything but a surprise.
This has been the founding Brown family’s company for nearly 150 years. Six of the directors were Browns, including board Chairman George Garvin Brown IV — a great-great grandson of the founder — and the rest were unquestionably family loyalists.
Stockholders outside the family knew what Brown-Forman has disclosed for years in an annual statement soliciting their votes: 13 individual Browns and family groups hold 67% of all the voting shares in “a variety of family trusts and entities, with multiple family members often sharing voting control and investment power.”
Much less has been known about the scope of those entities, leaving more than 5,600 other stockholders in the dark about exactly how the Browns divvy up nearly $6 billion in shares among a core group of relatives.
But now, documents filed by the Browns with the Securities and Exchange Commission detail how complex their ownership has grown since the pharmaceuticals salesman George Garvin Brown founded the company in 1870. They shed light on how the Browns have deployed extensive trust accounts, business partnerships, and other legal vehicles to pass down Brown-Forman stock through six generations. That’s an exceptional legacy in American business: Just 12% of family-owned companies survive into the third generation, and a slim 3% survive to the fourth and beyond.
The documents also point to a network of boutique consulting firms and other white-shoe professionals advising the city’s wealthiest families on everything from investments to taxes and charitable giving, hiring housekeepers and gardeners — even organizing vacation travel and family gatherings. Paid tens of thousands of dollars a year in fees, the firms are the backbone of a larger, multibillion-dollar economy serving the area’s uber-rich.
10:40 a.m., the Muhammad Ali Center. CEO Donald Lassere is visible on a TV cameraman’s video monitor as he tells a press conference the UPS Foundation has donated $500,000 to the museum honoring the Louisville native.
The gift will fund the center’s education initiatives, including UCrew, Generation Ali, its Character Education Program “Creating Our Future,” and the Muhammad Ali Center Council of Students. More about the Ali Center.
The UPS Foundation is the charitable arm of the shipping giant, which has 22,000 workers in Louisville — the city’s single-biggest employer. More about UPS and about its foundation.
Mayor Greg Fischer was there, too. But one of the most important people present — maybe the most important — wasn’t publicly acknowledged at all: Brown-Forman heiress Ina Brown Bond, one of the Ali Center’s main movers.
Discretion is everything in the wealth management world. That’s why the court challenge around the Glenview Trust Co.‘s launch 15 years ago grabbed such unwelcome headlines — before it got settled, of course, for $525,000. That controversial start apparently didn’t dent eventual success at the firm, which is akin to a large family office. Its motto: “enriching life.”
Today, Glenview — named for the posh community where the company is located east of Louisville — says it’s the commonwealth’s biggest independent trust company, working exclusively for individual investors. Glenview now represents more than 500 wealthy families, with a combined $6.5 billion in assets.
Its pitch: “Glenview Trust is a local, closely-held company with employee ownership, our professionals act and think differently. We are not accountable to a headquarters in a distant city, which allows us to effectively and efficiently accommodate our clients’ unique situations.”
Glenview has 40 employees, including nine attorneys. How much does it earn servicing those 500-plus families? That’s hard to estimate without knowing the firm’s fee schedule. Industrywide, fees vary widely, often stair-stepping down as account values rise. But applying a relatively low 0.5%, that would generate $33 million a year.
News about business and culture in Louisville, Ky.