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Sibling Rivalry - A spur to commercial success?

Updated on December 31, 2014

There is a saying that you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family. I have found it fascinating that there are examples of globally successful brands that have become huge commercial successes and behind this success is a bitter rivalry by siblings, also successful competing careers have been forged against a similar background. It is surprising that rival companies have been created and have prospered in direct competition, fuelled by this driving force! Similarly, siblings whose lives have taken parallel paths. Here are some examples, some of which may even surprise you?

Rudolf (left) and Adolf (right) Dassler with H.Waitzer (German Sports Minister) in 1930
Rudolf (left) and Adolf (right) Dassler with H.Waitzer (German Sports Minister) in 1930

Adolf Dassler V Rudolf Dassler

On leaving school, the elder Rudolf Dassler joined his father in the local shoe factory in the Bavarian town of Herzogenaurach, near Nuremberg, Germany. Following service in the first World War, Rudolf moved away and took up various positions until 1924. His younger brother, Adolf (nicknamed Adi) meanwhile had taken to producing sports shoes in his mother’s laundry and in 1924, the elder Rudolf returned to his hometown to join his younger brother Adi in setting up a new business – Dassler Brothers Shoe Factory (Gebrüder Dassler Schuhfabrik). The business proved very successful and started achieving international success, following Adi’s ingenious idea of persuading US athlete Jesse Owens to wear their sports shoes in the 1936 Olympics. It was during this period that tensions rose between the brothers, surely not helped with the political background in Germany during this time with both brothers joining the Nazi Party, along with a long held rumour that Rudi had been having an affair with Adi's wife Kathe, . Rudolf had been drafted into the army, whilst his younger brother stayed behind creating boots for the German army. Some time later, Rudolf was captured by the allies and accused of being an SS member, an accusation Rudolf believed had been made by his younger brother! With the end of the war and their factory just about surviving the Allied onslaught, the business started recovering and in 1948 the brothers split their partnership forever and become bitter personal and business rivals – Adi creating Adidas AG and older brother Rudy creating Puma, both companies stayed in Herzogenaurach. As both companies expanded and became ever more successful, this also created a rivalry with the townspeople (and local football teams! Each sponsored by the rival companies!) dependant on which company they worked for, usually with families remaining loyal to one or the other. Both companies remained family business’s, with family members remaining at the helm for a number of years and although neither companies are owned by the Dassler family today, it was the original Dassler Brothers fierce rivalry that cemented the foundations for both companies international success.

John (left) and William (right) Kellogg
John (left) and William (right) Kellogg

William K.Kellogg V John H.Kellogg

By the late 1890's in Battle Creek, Michegan, John Kellogg was a Doctor running the Battle Creek Sanatorium, where he developed a modern approach to treatment with focus on nutrition and exercise. He was later joined by his younger brother William and between them, and as part of the healthy eating regime within the hospital, invented the Corn Flake breakfast cereal . Both religious men and members of the the local Seventh Day Adventist Church (who also owned and ran the Sanatorium), younger brother William quickly realised the commercial potential of the breakfast cereal and urged his older brother to conceal the ingredients, but the older brother John held no such interest (it was in part of the this decision, that a patient of John's - Charles Post "obtained" the recipe and eventually set up his own successful Cereal company - Post Cereals, which would become General Foods, later part of the Philip Morris and now merged into the Kraft group). Proposed changes to the recipe with the addition of sugar to the cereal recipe advocated by the younger William caused a bitter falling out between the brothers then in 1906, William leaving to set-up his own cereal business - the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company, which would ultimately become the globally successful Kellogg Company that still flourishes today. Following disagreements with the church, John left the Sanatorium and formed his own company, the Battle Creek Food Company and for decades, the brothers were locked in a bitter feud and legal dispute over the rights to the recipe and remained bitter enemies right up until John's death in 1943, although it has been recorded that John desperately wished for a reconciliation towards the end of his life but sadly his younger brother William did not learn of this until after John had died.

Ernest & Julio (Left), Joseph (Right)
Ernest & Julio (Left), Joseph (Right)

Ernest and Julio Gallo V Joseph Gallo

Whilst not quite on the same scale as the two previous entries, starting in 1986 and concluding in 1989, Ernest and Julio Gallo, owners of the worlds biggest wine producer, sued their younger brother Joseph, in a bid to stop him using the Gallo name for his multi-million dollar cheese business.

With the concern that the brand may be deemed by consumers to be connected to the wine producer, the older brothers had previously licensed their name to a subsidiary of the the Sara Lee group, for a salami brand . This followed a previous counter lawsuit from the younger Joseph against his elder brothers, asserting that the older brothers had used his share of his parents inheritance to build their winery. Incidently, their father had murdered their mother and committed suicide in 1933, following this, the elder brothers transformed the business from a wine grape seller, to wine producer, meanwhile, the younger brother, who was 10 years junior and had been raised by his older brothers, after military service, continued in the grape selling business.

In each legal case, the presiding Judges ruled in favour of the older brothers and the younger brother had to rename his brand to Joseph Farms, the elder brothers, however sought no monetary payment, only to protect their brand. The battling brothers never spoke again. Tragically, Julio was killed in a car accident in May 1993. , the legal proceedings took heavy toll on the younger brother Joseph who died in February 2007, Ernest died in March 2007.

Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine
Olivia De Havilland and Joan Fontaine

Olivia de Havilland V Joan Fontaine

Both now in their 90's, both Hollywood Legends and appearing in what are considered as some of the greatest films ever, sisters Olivia de Havilland and Joan Fontaine have endured a turbulent relationship nearly all their lives. With no other siblings, born in Tokyo to English Parents, Olivia in 1916 and Joan in 1917, it was perhaps their complicated relationship with their mother, who would in-turn, favour one of the other, that perhaps cemented a bitter rivalry between them that has endured nearly ninety years! In their youth, they would fight like cats and dogs. It has been said that they have not spoken to each other in nearly forty years!

They spent their acting careers fighting for the same roles, it was the elder Olivia who entered the acting profession first and who won the role of Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone With The Wind, while her younger sister, who also auditioned, lost out as she was deemed too glamorous alongside Vivial Leigh, but suggesting that her "plain" older sister audition, ultimately winning the part, meanwhile Joan won the role of Rebecca in Hitchcock's famous adaptation of Daphne Du Maurier's book opposite Laurence Olivier, at the expense, the following year, both were nominated for Best Actress Oscars - Joan won, for her role in Suspicion, opposite Cary Grant and directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Joan was said to have snubbed her older sisters attempt to congratulate her, however Olivia went on to win the Best Actress award in 1942 (in "To Each His Own) and again in 1949 (for "The Heiress") . They even rivaled each other in their love lives, often in competition for the same men and it was rumored that on the eve of Joan's wedding to British actor Brian Ahearn, Olivia's then boyfriend, Billionaire Howard Hughes, had attempted to talk Joan out of the marriage stating that he wanted to marry her himself, an incident that Joan quickly related to Olivia, causing Olivia and Howard Hughes' relationship to disintegrate.

It was perhaps the death of their mother in the 1970s and an argument over the memorial service, to which Joan initially was not invited and subsequent details of their mother's will, from which Joan's daughter was completed excluded, that perhaps provided the final complete severance of their relationship, further damaged by autobiographies from each detailing their tempestuous relationship and it has also been documented that Joan had endured a falling out with her daughter, after discovering that she had secretly established contact with her Aunt!

Noel (left) and Liam (right) Gallagher
Noel (left) and Liam (right) Gallagher

Noel Gallagher V Liam Gallagher

For 10 years between 1995 and 2005, Rock Band Oasis were Britain's most sucsesfull music artists and went on to achieve global success with a string of number one Albums and hit singles. Originally formed by younger brother Liam, along with original members Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan and Tony McCarroll, older brother Noel, who at the time was a roadie for successful Manchester band - Inspiral Carpets, agreed to join the band on the proviso that he was to take charge and be the sole songwriter. The rest as they say, is history, however from an early stage, the band became famous not just for their music, but also for the explosive relationship between the two Gallagher Brothers. Some saw the arguments and media coverage of the relationship as staged. Relationships with fellow band mates became strained and the group suffered a number of personnel changes in the subsequent years at the height of their success and beyond, with all the original members being replaced, however matters came to a head in August 2009 when a backstage argument between the brothers resulted in Liam smashing Noel's guitar and Noel leaving the band. Oasis effectively ended at this point, with the group minus Noel reforming as "Beady Eye" and whilst the main body of their work is new, they do occasionally perform Oasis songs, famously performing "Wonderwall" at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics. Noel was widely expected to join the band that night but has since said that he has no plans ever to share a stage with his brother again. Noel Gallagher has since gone on to form his own new band "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds", yet for both bands, the success achieved with Oasis is unlikely to reach them again.


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