The 2015 Family Business Awards: Legacy Award


Laird Norton Company

Seattle Business magazine’s judges consider Laird Norton to be the gold standard of family business when it comes to implementing best practices, succession planning and long-range, flexible strategies.

Founded in 1855 as a frontier logging operation in Minnesota, the diversified holding company today continues to raise the bar through active dialogue, planning and review of how family governance should evolve, says CEO Jeff Vincent.

“We’ve been around 160 years,” he says, “and I attribute a lot of that success to the family being very progressive about how the family governs the business.”

Family owners gather to verify directional themes. One change included how nominating occurs to attract board directors. For adopting best practices, a governance committee reports on top standards found around the business community. Laird Norton ranks itself against those best practices among both private and public companies, large and small.

A short-term emergency-succession plan remains in place and is regularly communicated. With a focus on building lasting partnerships, the company invests equity capital in real estate and in leading lower middle-market companies in consumer brands, building materials and asset management. The management team and board of directors comprising both family and non-family members guide business strategy.

Regular communication goes out to the base of 400 family shareholders, who gather for an annual summit. The Laird Norton legacy continues through family members Debbie Brown, board chair since 2012, and Allison Parks, family president since 2014. 

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