Four Generation Family Business Endangered by Family Dispute in Ann Arbor


The silent party to all the fighting is, of course, Luray Caverns. It is not just a U.S. Natural Landmark. It is also a business, and businesses can suffer when their owners are at war with each other.

Family businesses have a tough time passing from generation to generation.  Some will make the transition …and some won’t.  Even some of the most sound businesses and families alike will face succession challenges, so you can imagine that family business involving quarrels between family members have slim chances of survival.

For one of those all-too-possible horror stories of succession and family business gone awry, consider the case of the Luray Caverns and the Graves family. The Washington Post recently recounted the story in an article titled “The rift — a family dynasty fights over the future of Luray Caverns.

The business of the Graves family was really an empire of various tourist businesses surrounding the Luray Caverns – the largest privately held cave system and tourism hotspot since the late 1800s. The family business apparently had been on a downward slope for some time. To make matters worse, this four generation family business has been in and out of litigation for the last ten years. In the end, not only has this discord threatened the family fortune and the business that built it, but the entire town associated with the family and the business.

More than a sad tale, this case is an object lesson for other family businesses and the original article is worth reading.

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Reference: The Washington Post (March 14, 2013) “The rift — a family dynasty fights over the future of Luray Caverns

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