Family Business Awards: Legacy

| FROM THE PRINT EDITION |
 
 
Port Blakely
Left to right: Mike Warjone, James Eddy Warjone, René Ancinas. In the portraits: Garrett Eddy, James Garfield Eddy, John Franklin Eddy, John Whittemore Eddy.

The Eddy family’s emergence as a legacy family has been no accident. During the more than 100 years that the family has owned and operated Port Blakely Cos., a Seattle company that specializes in forestry, real estate and timber exports, it has constantly adapted to changing market conditions. Today, the business has 120 employees and, with properties throughout Washington, Oregon and New Zealand, Forbes magazine ranked the firm as the nation’s 50th largest private land holder.

Over the years, the company has expanded into China, built up a real estate business and learned to capture the best prices during peak demands for forest products. And through it all, the company maintained its family values: integrity, respect, quality and environmental responsibility.

Port Blakely Cos.

Location: Seattle
Employees: 120
Website: portblakely.com

To align those family values with its business operations, the company put in place a variety of new institutions, first with a focus on family governance and then on educating the younger generation of shareholders. As part of a succession program to ensure continued strong family management. René Ancinas, a fourth-generation family member, was chosen as heir apparent, serving as the founding president of the Eddy Family Council, a leadership structure created 10 years ago. Then-CEO James Eddy Warjone saw that many family members were losing interest in the operations of the business and he wanted to more closely align their interests with Port Blakely’s. The council—which has been used as a case study at Harvard Business School—meets three times a year to discuss family concerns and provide business updates. In 2005, Ancinas joined the company and worked alongside Warjone to learn more about the business. On July 1 this year, he was promoted to CEO just as the company settled with a group of dissident shareholders who could have broken up the company.

To make certain family support for the business remains strong, the group meets regularly in attractive locations, and it established the Eddy Academy to help the youngest members of the family bond with each other and learn about philanthropy.

In 2006, for example, the Eddy Academy was held in Arizona. Family members from ages 5 to 16 were brought together in an informal setting to create a product, sell it and then invest the profits in a socially responsible way. Focusing on the company’s real estate arm, this year about 20 young family members volunteered in a local development, each earning a T-shirt signifying another year of the Eddy Academy.

“Part of the overall family governance structure is to make sure we are engaging hearts, minds and wallets of family members who will be involved in the business someday,” Ancinas explains. “It’s a pretty powerful program, and it fosters bonds and creates an awareness of the family legacy.”

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