Next Generation Leadership

Family Offices and Legacy: Michael Vlasic, Vlasic Investments

April 24, 2012 By Kristina Magnuson

By Hampton S. Barclay    MBA Candidate Class of 2013 

Students in Family Business II: Governance and Leadership were treated to a special presentation Wednesday when the class hosted Michael Vlasic of Vlasic Investments who spoke about carrying on the legacy of a family business and preserving wealth through active diversified investments.

You may know the Vlasic name from the pickle aisle at the grocery store, but Mr.Vlasic and his family have long since moved away from cucumbers and vinegar. In fact, as Mr. Vlasic pointed out, even at the outset, pickles were just a small part of his entrepreneurial grandfather’s business empire, which encompassed everything from an office equipment leasing business to a radio station. As Mr. Vlasic explained to the class, “My grandfather saw an opportunity for a business and would just grab it. Take, for example, the plane leasing business. We needed planes to fly out to the cucumber farms so we ended up with several and decided to lease them out.”

Today, Mr. Vlasic leads a more centralized core of companies, including commercial property developer MAVD Development, natural resources trader V&C Energy, and a variety of private equity funds, all while trying to balance the demands of an active family office. These new businesses have carried on the family’s remarkable track record of success, even as the company has shifted to new industries.

As a class participant, I most enjoyed Mr. Vlasic’s explanation of succession within the family business. As I look to become more involved with my own family business, I must remember that it can be easy to become enmeshed in a leadership role, and that families can come to expect that one person will want to hold on to that role for decades. I found it very insightful that the children (next generation) of the four siblings are NOT expected to have a role in the family holdings’ management.

We can all hope that Mr. Vlasic will return to UNC once again for more lessons in leadership and family business.  By generously sharing his time and candid comments, Mr. Vlasic makes a fine addition to the Family Business lessons learned.