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Sometimes it's hard finding an heir

Like other businesspeople, Isara Vongkusolkit, chairman of Mitr Phol Group, Asia's largest (and the world's fifth-largest) sugar producer, is probably scratching his head. One of his children has apparently refused to inherit the family business.

As of July, with net worth of US$910 million (more than Bt29 billion), the 65-year-old man and his family were ranked 23rd on Forbes' "Thailand's 50 Richest" list.

When in Bangkok recently, Joachim Schwass, director of Switzerland's IMD Global Family Business Centre, which is advising family businesses striving for sustainability, said business experimentation was part of the process.

He suggested that the children of rich families should be allowed to start their own businesses, and it was vital for their parents to turn off the radar. The children should be given a free hand in running their own businesses. This would determine whether they should pursue their own dreams or help out in the family business.

Onstage at a Kasikornbank-hosted event, Isara told the audience that opportunities abounded, particularly for young men.

Three years ago, his son wanted to start a new business - selling guitars. The son assured his father of success, saying there was no shop like this in Thailand while demand was brisk.

Isara was surprised that last year the guitar shop sold Bt30 million worth of products.

Well, with success like that, his son should no longer find the family business attractive. It seems running a profitable guitar shop means fewer headaches than running a business with annual revenue of more than Bt30 billion.

Luckily, Isara has four children. So he can still hope that one or more will be enticed to join the family business.

WHO IS MARTIN SOONG?

Martin Soong, a CNBC business presenter based in Singapore, is well known to those in the corporate and financial communities who keep track of Asian business movements through the cable TV station. As a co-anchor of CNBC Asia's trademark morning programme "Squawk Box", he is seen by millions every morning.

But despite having been a full-time journalist for 20 years and winning several awards, Soong remains unknown to some.

He was in Bangkok last month when CNBC hosted the "Asia Business Leaders Awards" ceremony. He was seen on the stage and on the floor, where he interviewed some leading businesspeople.

When the dinner was over, Soong left the hotel's ballroom. Two reception staff rushed after him, holding a bag containing a souvenir.

"Are you leaving, sir?" one of them asked, attempting to hand him the bag while he was in the elevator.

Soong was clearly puzzled. He was speechless.

The staff member asked the same question again, and Soong managed to say "No."

The incident produced a big laugh for other people in the elevator. Even at an event hosted by his network, here was someone who did not recognise the celebrity news anchor.

Busdsk@nationgroup.com


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