Perspectives from ISB

Ziad Salloum and his father Samir are both lawyers with expertise ranging from “day to day stuff” as Salloum Jr puts it (acquisitions, contracts, sales), to managing a business handover from one generation to next—a process arguably more about personalities than professionalism.

Established in 1980 by Samir, Salloum & Partners LLC (formerly the Law Offices of Samir A Salloum) assists between 20 and 30 UAE family businesses including realtors, car dealers, insurance brokers, and shipping companies.

Before entering his father’s firm, Salloum started his career as a banker, meaning when he wanted to come back into the family fold, a good legal grounding was the first matter of business. “So for 10 years, there was an incredible amount of pressure to get to learn extremely quickly, to acquire the benefit of [my father’s] experience together with the legal expertise.”

Families of wealth worldwide struggle with the big handover, with research showing not enough preparation is being put in to handling the often-fraught process. The stakes are high. In the next 10 years, more than $1 trillion of family businesses will pass to a new generation of owners, according to Badr Jafar, founder of the Pearl Initiative—a not-for-profit Sharjah-based institution.

Nonetheless, Salloum says his clients come to him with a raft of succession issues. “Part of it is a concern about loss of control…It can also be because [the principal] has sunk their entire life into it and does not have any other interests. So they are worried that if they exit the business, what do they do now?”

Another common spanner in the works with Middle Eastern succession came when children were sent to Western universities, returning with large egos and different cultural norms to their parents. This is where the unique double-team approach Ziad and Samir can implement, comes in handy.

Salloum says it all starts with relationships: “You can put the most beautiful plans in place, governance plans and all that, but if you do not work first on the strength of the relationship between the family members, then all the rest of it is not really worth the paper it is going to be printed on. So the way my father would put it is ‘You’ve got to start with love’.”

Salloum says no two successful successions were alike, with some families taking a very structured approach by mapping out rules around the necessary qualifications, work experience, and attributes a family member needs before joining the family business.

Others preferred to bring in children organically over time: Families allowed their children to be around business activities from a very young age, to get them used to be around high-powered people.

Source: Beech, James and Newlove, Alexandra, CampdenFB, Issue 71, December 19, 2017,