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April 22, 2008

Richard Florida

The Consigliere

« The Big Sort | Main | Location, Location, Location »

The Financial Times profiles Geoff Beattie, the force behind the Thompson-Reuters merger.

As president of Woodbridge, the family investment company, Mr Beattie, 48, is often described as the consigliere or éminence grise of the family. It is a sign of the rarity of such roles in Anglo-Saxon capitalism that there seems to be no English equivalent.

Other family conglomerates accrue advisers who “slowly but surely emasculate the family”, Mr Beattie says. But Woodbridge acts as the sole conduit between the family, its assets and a tight circle of loyal lawyers and bankers. In 50 years only two people have held the role. Mr Beattie took over in 1998 from John Tory, a lawyer who spent 20 years advising Roy Thomson and another 20 counselling his son, Kenneth. According to Mr Beattie, who began his career in Torys law firm, continuity has shaped a long-term approach that has become a family hallmark. Without the responsibilities of operating executives, “it allows us the time, and gives us the responsibility, to be far-sighted”.

It is a model other businesses should study, Prof [Roger] Martin says. “There is a view, especially in the US, that the widely held, publicly traded corporation with no major shareholder is the natural order in the world. It isn’t. It is a recent phenomenon.”

Beattie is also a key force, along with Roger Martin, behind the Martin Prosperity Institute.

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