Seattle Times Company, a family owned business, has existed for more than 100 years. The family has controlled the newspaper since the founding of Alden Blethen and his great-grandson Frank Blethen. This Harvard Business School example explains how the long-standing family history ended with the fifth generation, or the “fifth Edition”, and explains that family ownership has contributed to success over the years. Frank Blethen celebrates the successful transition from a afternoon to a daytime publication in this case. Seattle Times prospered when other newspapers were unable to adapt their lifestyles to the changing trends. Franks and his unique leadership style were largely responsible for the success of this transition.
Frank Blethen along with his family members are very proud of their Seattle Times Company being a family owned business. They want to control the entire company. Seattle Times’ success is due to the flexibility and power that comes with being owned by a family. This family-owned company has other benefits. Seattle Times cares about quality journalism. The newspaper is focused on the needs and interests of their readers, not investors or distant conglomerates. Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly, the Blethens have always ensured a positive working environment. The Seattle Times Company employees feel that the Blethens are trustworthy. Seattle Times Company employees have received many benefits, even though it is not able to give stock options. The company created a child care center in 1987, promoted diversity, and assisted workers to transition to a daily publication.
Seattle Times Company is enjoying great success thanks to Frank Blethen’s leadership and his commitment to family ownership. It has also created some barriers. Frank asks some thought-provoking questions when he expressed concern for his company’s future. 16-17). It is easy to sum up whether the company can grow profitably and maintain employee satisfaction. Frank thinks that the Seattle Times Company should either stay private, continuing to uphold its core values and maintain its family-oriented culture, or go public. Frank does not see that compromise is possible to achieve the best of all worlds. Google, Bain and Company and Twitter, for example, are all rated as having some of the best employee satisfaction in the entire world, and they are not family-owned. Several of these companies are industry leaders and giants.
Seattle Times Company will have a difficult time competing with other companies for the top talent. Employees may choose to work for larger companies with better benefits and salaries. It can be difficult to compete with media leaders like CNN, or survive an economic recession. The company can also learn how to grow without losing the core values of quality journalism. To preserve the family mentality, managers can hold bi-annual family gatherings where members of the family discuss social issues, newspaper concerns and their future.