Nepotism: The Fabric of Our Culture


Family businesses built America. You know -- the corner pizza parlor, started by two brothers and carried on by the kids; the butcher shop down the street, a mom-and-pop operation handed down to their kid; the hardware store that Charley Morchian opened in Montclair, N.J., in 1977, and will someday pass on to his son, Roy.

"He seemed interested in it," Morchian said. "And he knew what he was doing -- not so much as me -- but he enjoys it. So we figured we'd pass it on to him."

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Nothing wrong with that, right?

"It's the American dream: handing down what you had to your children," Ivanka Trump said. "Grooming them to follow you."

She ought to know. Someday she and her brothers could inherit the real estate empire started by her grandfather and elevated to new heights by her father, Donald Trump. But Ivanka has noticed that when the family business becomes big business, those warm and fuzzy feelings toward the next generation disappear.

"Nepotism is regarded in a negative sense when it's associated with the children of the very wealthy," she explained.

After graduating from college, Trump got some experience at another firm, then, last year, she joined the Trump Organization. Entry job: vice president. She was 25 years old. Here's how she answered the inevitable questions about her qualifications for the position:

"I don't pretend I have all the answers. But I have great resources to help me figure them out. But there is still a perception that, because of the the fact that I was born into a life of privilege that I am an absolute brat, that I'm spoiled and I don't deserve it." Trump paused for breath and continued: "Look, I went to the Wharton School of Finance, and I graduated summa cum laude. I choose to work here. I work my heart out. I work 19-hour days. I'm the next generation of this company."

"If your name were Ivanka Jones," I asked, "would you be sitting here right now?"

"Who knows?" she answered. "Did nepotism play a part in the fact that I'm joining my father? Yes. I cut out years of bureaucratic pencil-pushing by joining the company and I acknowledge that."

And when her dad made her the co-star of his hit TV show, "The Apprentice," Trump's longtime aide, Carolyn Kepcher, was shut out. The late-night comics had a field day with that one.

"Yes, it's fodder for comedy and yes, you can make the pot shot," Ivanka Trump acknowledged. "It's the kind of stuff that ultimately is a motivator and a catalyst for me just to prove those people wrong."

When Getting Hired Is Your Birthright

When it's your dad and his own private company, getting hired can be part of your birthright. But what if the family business is a big public company, owned by shareholders like you and me?

"In a publicly held company, nepotism is a highly questionable thing," said Michael Connor, publisher of Business Ethics magazine. "Shareholders are entitled to the best talent the company can find. With nepotism, you're hiring someone simply because they're your family."

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