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REGIONALREPORT Western

Mixing blood and business

Steve Miller, 56, was a young employee at Biltmore House when brothers George and Bill Cecil Sr. split the Asheville estate their grandfather George Vanderbilt built at the end of the 19th century. During his 34 years with The Biltmore Co., the tourism business that Bill Cecil and his heirs built around the 250-room chateau, revenue increased from $3 million to the $140 million projected for 2011. As executive vice president, Miller was its top nonfamily executive until he left in July to start a family-business consulting firm.

What’s the biggest threat to an ongoing family business?
Family members lacking a common vision.

Like what happened between the Cecils.
Exactly. They were both great people. They just didn’t have a common vision. This generation, it really wants to stay together.

What difficulties did you face?
There were some glass ceilings. Plus, you make the best recommendations you can, but it’s the family owners’ final decision.

Give us an example.
I wanted a hotel on the estate. Mr. Cecil didn’t want to be in that business. The next generation was more interested. It’s been one of the most successful things we’ve ever done.

What are the positives?
You’re able to do things that take longer than two quarters to make money. Like the wine business. That took us three to four years to make profitable.

How does generation change affect the nonfamily exec’s role?
Bill Jr. wanted the position of CEO, but when he got it I think he was like, “Now what do I do?” He’s become very successful, but there were a couple of years when we had to learn to work together in a different way.

 


ASHEVILLE — Former Bank of Asheville President Gordon “Buddy” Greenwood (“Out of Order,” June 2011) pleaded guilty to federal bank-fraud and money-laundering charges in connection with a $500,000 loan he authorized. He faces a maximum of 40 years in prison and $1.25 million in fines.

MARIONPackaging-material maker RockTenn will add 124 employees by the end of 2012 at its plant here. That will bring the Norcross, Ga.-based company’s employment in McDowell County to more than 350. The average annual salary for the new jobs will be $33,023. The county average is $29,224.

NEWLAND — Cornelius-based O2 Energies plans to complete construction on a $5 million, 900-kilowatt solar farm near here by mid-September. The company says the 6-acre farm will produce enough electricity for about 120 homes.

HENDERSONVILLEMargaret R. Pardee Memorial Hospital hired James “Jay” Kirby II as its new CEO effective this month. Kirby was senior vice president and chief administrative officer of Self Regional Healthcare in Greenwood, S.C. He replaces Kris Hoce, who resigned in November.

MURPHY — Carolinas HealthCare System has begun managing Murphy Medical Center, a 57-bed hospital here that serves patients in three counties. The Charlotte-based health system also manages hospitals in Haywood and Jackson counties, as MedWest Health System.