George de la Torre Jr. inherited his father's canning factory more than 30 years ago and transformed it into Juanita's Foods, a multimillion-dollar company that makes canned menudo and other Latino foods.
De la Torre is thinking about retiring soon from the day-to-day operations, but he won't be turning over his canned-food company to his sons. Instead his eldest daughter will assume the reins of the Wilmington-based enterprise.
"Everyone's in agreement that I'm the one who's going to take over," said Gina Harpur, general manager of Juanita's Foods and soon-to-be president and chief executive. "It has taken a lot of time and a lot of emotional conversations to come to this decision. But I'm the one."
Juanita's Foods is just one example of the growing shakeup in the traditional father-to-son succession that has been particularly strong in the Latino family business world.
"We've had to understand that it is not just about power struggles and sibling rivalry, but what is best for the company," said Harpur, 40, who won out over her 37-year-old brother Mark de la Torre, the plant manager, and her 28-year-old brother Aaron de la Torre, a management trainee.
Family power struggles like this are seen all the time at USC's Family Business Program, a division of the Marshall School of Business. "What we are seeing is that when a company goes through a transition and someone has to decide who is better qualified to take over, it may not be the first-born male," said Annika Sieler, the program's associate director.
It could be the second-born daughter, or the wife.
At the Family Business Program, about one-third of the 28 participating companies are falling under female control.
"Not knowing who is going to take over has a tremendous effect on the relationship between the siblings and the future of the company. Are they going to grow or are they going to sell it to someone else?" Sieler said.
To solve that problem, USC specialists recommend that family business owners write up certain rules of succession, such as requiring a sibling to work outside the family operation for two years to learn more about another business or get an advanced degree.
An advanced degree was one of the determining factors at Juanita's Foods. Harpur is the sibling with an MBA from USC and has worked in the family business for a longer period of time.
"I have a broader understanding of what needs to be done," said Harpur, whose company employs 100 people and has annual sales in excess of $30 million. "We plan on growing the company in new ways, and I think I can be more open to ways that business is done. My brother Mark doesn't have an MBA. He got a business degree from the University of Redlands and then played baseball with the New York Yankees for awhile."
Sibling rivalry also has been an issue at La Opinion, L.A.'s daily Spanish-language newspaper founded by Ignacio Lozano Sr. in 1926. It is run by Lozano's grandchildren.
Jose Lozano, 45, is the publisher. His sister Monica Lozano, 43, is the newspaper's president and chief operating officer.
While their roles are now clearly established, there had been some friction about job titles. For years, Monica, the more public figure, was described as "the associate publisher." But she felt her title didn't mirror what she does.
"My previous title had me on a second tier," she said. "There were moments when I felt I wasn't being properly recognized for my leadership in the company. But that has changed with my recent promotion to president and COO."
These are family disagreements that Ignacio Lozano Jr. probably never envisioned when he stepped down as publisher in 1986 after being named U.S. ambassador to El Salvador. He always assumed that his son Jose would take over the newspaper, but daughter Monica has been an aggressive leader in the media world.
Now each Lozano family member is finding his or her niche. Jose concentrates on a newspaper Web site. Monica is focusing on increasing circulation and growing the business. Younger brother Francisco, 28, recently joined the marketing department.
Brother shows less interest
Meanwhile, at the Vanir Group of Cos., no line of succession has been mapped out. But if Dorene Dominguez has her way, she, not her brother, will some day be chair.
Currently Dorene, 37, is vice president of Vanir Construction Management, the leading builder of schools in California. Her brother, Richard Dominguez, 36, is vice president of Vanir Development Inc.
Their father, Frank Dominguez, who started the company 37 years ago, is chairman of the parent company.
But Dorene believes that when her father steps down, she will win the power struggle over her brother, despite the fact that he's a graduate of Notre Dame Law School.
"It has always been my dad's intent that my brother would take over one day. But my brother has shown less interest in the company, and I have shown more interest," Dorene said.
Even Frank Dominguez's early desires to see his son take over may not conquer Dorene's ambitions.
Asked about who would win the power struggle, he said in a resigned voice: "I would bet on Dorene. She's used to getting her own way."
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