Seventy-five percent of small-business owners have no real succession plan — a potential recipe for disaster. This entrepreneur’s accidental fate tells a cautionary tale.
“We had a perfect storm,” says John Nida, remembering the night of December 31, 2008.
As general manager of Wölffer Estate, a boutique vineyard and riding stable business set on 175 picturesque acres in the elite Hamptons on Long Island, New York, Nida was already feeling the effects of that fall’s financial panic. Then, on New Year’s Eve, he got the news that the visionary founder, 70-year-old Christian Wölffer, had suffered a fatal accident while vacationing in Brazil. “It was a shock,” says Nida, now 45. “Christian lived larger than life. He was amazing and talented.”
Wölffer, a German-born venture capitalist and real estate investor, had the foresight in 1979 to snap up 14 acres of potato fields in the sleepy village of Sagaponack. Nowadays, Sagaponack, which is often called “the most expensive ZIP code in the country,” welcomes multimillionaires like Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, TV personality Jimmy Fallon and piano man Billy Joel.
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