Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Glockenspiel Redux

There’s nothing I like better than reading about a family feud.

It’s not that my own personal family is one blissful, life-long love fest, but all of us, across the boards, seem to have inherited the get-along gene. It no doubt helps that there’s never been all that much to get riled up over, dollar-wise, which seems to be the root of so much family feuding.

Not that money is always present where extreme family dysfunction is found. I have a friend who has a particularly feuding branch in her family tree. This one family – which had 10 kids – was led by a matriarch who, at any given point in time, was only speaking to half of her kids and grandkids. (The original “issue” that set all this off was incredibly trivial.) All the side-taking and shifting alliances dictated who got invited to weddings and who would show up for wakes.  Auntie M was so nasty that, on her death-bed, she forbid the currently favored children to let the unfavored half of her brood know that she had died. Her attitude: let them read it in the obituaries. Fortunately, a couple of the chosen few broke ranks and let their sibs know that their mother had passed on to the Great Snitfest in the Sky.

But this attitude has trickled down to my friend’s generation. She recently attended the wake of her cousin, one of the 10 “kids” in this family. There, she ran into another cousin – the deceased’s brother – who had, in fact, read about his sister’s death in the newspaper. In the online notice, most of this woman’s siblings went unmentioned.

So it doesn’t necessarily have to be about the money.

In fact, although at first glance it appears to be about the money, the ongoing saga of the Glock family feud shows that sometimes, it’s about the business, it’s about the job.

It is, of course, difficult to separate out what’s money and what’s job, as they tend to go hand-in-hand. And we all know that enough, except for very rare individuals, is never enough.

But in this case, it seems that Frau Glock and the three Glock kinder are mostly ticked off because they’ve been shut out of the family business that they’ve all devoted their lives to.

Okay. I’m ignoring cherchez la femme for a moment. There is, in fact, another woman involved – wife number two, a woman young enough to be Gaston Glock’s granddaughter. But mostly, I’m going with: this is about the business, this is about the jobs.

From the outset, Helga Glock played an instrumental role in turning the Glock family business, helping transform a modest curtain rod manufacturing company to one of the best known, and most lucrative, gun slingers in the world.

Gaston and Helga married in 1962, just as they launched the family business. Brigitte arrived soon after. Gaston Jr. was born in 1965, and a year later, Robert. While raising the children in Deutsch-Wagram, outside Vienna, Helga also handled invoices, tax records, and wire transfers…

From the beginning, Helga says, Glock was a collaborative enterprise. By the late 1960s she had three children, a full-time job with the family metal shop in suburban Vienna, and a husband who expected hot lunch and dinner served every day. “I still ask myself how I managed this,” she says. In the company’s early stages, she and Gaston Sr. manufactured curtain rods and other house fittings. Her husband assured her that one day they’d be rich, and on that promise, at least, he kept his word. (Source: Business Week)

Well, at some point in there, a light bulb went off and the Glocks figured out there was more to be made in fire arms than curtain rods, and that light bulb going off made the collective day for the Glock family.

Then Gaston Glock had a near death experience, decided he wanted to spend the remainder of his life with the woman he loved – the one who was 50 years younger than he – and went ahead and reorganized the company. Well, what’s a reorganization without a few senior heads rolling, and the heads that rolled at Glock were those of Helga, and the Glocks three offspring. None had ever held a job outside of the family biz. All along the way, they were assured by their parents that someday, the business would be theirs.

The severance package was pretty good. No one week’s pay for every year worked, or any such nonsense. They were all set for life.

Set financially, but, hey, if you’re used to getting up and going to work at the same place since you could crawl, well, you might find yourself missing going to work at a place that you considered your life’s work.

The children never considered careers other than the family trade. Brigitte had joined in 1983 after graduating with a business degree from a technical school. She helped Helga with administrative work. In the next years, Gaston Jr. carved out a specialty in information technology, Robert in sales and marketing. Gaston Jr. ruefully recites “the famous quote from my father: ‘You don’t need to go to university. Come to work for me, and you will learn the most.’ ”

Gaston, Sr. sure wasn’t kidding. This probably was an environment where Gaston, Jr. would “learn the most.” About human nature, trophy wives, and getting screwed.

As so often happens when folks are laid off, the Glock children have changed careers. While they and their mother try to resolve the legal issues that are playing out, they’ve found something else to do with their time. (Helga is not going down without a fight, that’s for sure.) Brigitte owns a pet store. Gaston Jr. runs an online high-end hunting clothes company; Robert runs a couple of restaurants.

But, alas, it’s not the family gun works.

Aww, shoot.


Here’s my original post on the Glocks.

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