Not All Heiresses are Parises

Posted: Jun 14, 2007 9:33 AM

My column today is a look at those heirs and heiresses whose mere existence doesn't argue against inherited wealth.

I've always believed the rich--and the rest of us-- have the right to do exactly as they wish with their money when they die and that the children of the rich are just as entitled to inherit that wealth as they are to inherit their parents' work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit through the gene pool.

Of course, passing down extreme wealth can have the unfortunate consequence of creating Paris Hiltons from the stock of Conrad Hiltons. But, it doesn't always happen that way:

My favorite story is of Brooks Firestone, but there are plenty to choose from:

As for the Firestone family, Brooks Firestone, the grandson of Harvey, proves what good can come of an inheritance when it is put to use somewhere other than in the family business. Brooks tired of the tire business and followed a whim into wines. With the Firestone fortune, he started one of the first vineyards on California’s central coast.

Time magazine said of the venture, in 1987:

"Brooks Firestone’s importance to the California wine industry is first of all historical: He was a pioneer, an inspirer, and expander of possibilities; he took a chance on an untried wine area, then stuck with it and made it pay..."

And, that is what a combination of inherited wealth and inherited entrepreneurial spirit can get you. Paris, of course, has been a pioneer in a totally different kind of whine.

Paris could learn a lot from these guys, who take their entrepreneurial legacies seriously, and use their great inherited privilege to follow in the footsteps of great grandparents and greater Americans.