When it comes to fictional family fortunes, few have more to protect than the Stark household. Howard Stark, the senior Stark, who was the brilliant scientist and inventor, founded and grew Stark Industries into a multi-billion dollar technological conglomerate, but died unexpectedly. When his son Tony took over after his untimely death, Stark Industries flourished for two decades under the new leadership, thanks in part to the careful consideration Howard spent on building Tony into someone who could take over for him.
Yet successful succession stories like these are in the minority. In reality, many family riches are eventually squandered by descendants, usually once the third generation has inherited it. One of the best defenses against this destiny is a family office. Generally reserved for ultra high net worth individuals and their relatives, family offices are private wealth advisory firms that focus on managing, growing and transferring wealth.
The overall figure varies, but typically the minimum amount of capital required to justify the use of one is a hundred million dollars in assets. With company revenues in 2007 thought to be north of 20 billion dollars, the Stark family no doubt would both qualify and benefit from the employee of a family office. In addition to outright wealth management, family offices also include specialists that cater to all aspects of a wealthy family’s dynamic, including estate planning, tax planning, family counselling, and succession of company leadership.
One aspect championed by family offices as a key to success is the importance of keeping all members involved and interested in maintaining the fortune. While the first and second generations of rich families tend to have memories of hardship before their lavish lifestyle, third and successive generations tend to grow up isolated from the conditions in which their original fortune was born, which typically results in people better suited to spending money than earning it. Despite his cold demeanour towards Tony, Howard nevertheless recognized this and, in the hopes he could continue the legacy he was building at Stark Industries, wanted to maximize his son’s potential by encouraging his development.
While Tony’s natural capabilities were a good fit for the role, his cavalier attitude at times, like when he shuts down the company’s profitable weapon’s division or decides to entirely fund the Avengers himself meant that he put the company’s future at risk and, by extension, his wife and daughter. While not responsible for making them directly, the organic bureaucracy of a family office can help mitigate either the effects of rash decisions or the decisions themselves before they’re ever realized. Had Tony set up a family office for the Stark’s Pepper and Morgan would have a far greater chance of maintaining their lifestyle when Iron Man ultimately sacrifices himself for the greater good.