Uneasy is the Head that Is Denied the Crown

I remember once telling a woman acquaintance who had just begun a fundraising job at a local college to pursue the richest woman in Massachusetts–Abigail Johnson. She’s the scion of the Johnsons who run Fidelity, the world’s largest mutual fund. But at 45, she’s already been passed over by dad Ned to run the firm. With billions in the bank, she hardly needs the job, but it must be tough having a dad who rejects you as the heir apparent.

Fidelity watchers thought they had it figured out when Ned promoted Ellyn McColgan. But today’s NY Times reports that Ellyn has flown the coop. Maybe it’s because Ned put a layer of management between her and himself. I’ve always been fascinated by the succession struggles people go through in big companies. It’s never just as simple as passing it on to your kids any more. “There is a long history of people who want the top job [at Fidelity] and are capable of doing it, said one observer. “But they are never given the opportunity to show they can run it.”

One bright spot for Abby–even if her future position as chairman is in doubt. By McColgan leaving, she’s just doubled the value of her Fidelity stock. That’s gotta count for something, right?