Hubler Award: Glenn Ayres

Hubler Award: Glenn Ayres

This highly regarded trust and estate planning attorney was also a pioneer in family business consulting.

Last spring, longtime attorney and family business consultant Glenn Ayres passed away at age 76. In recognition of his many contributions to the discipline, he is being recognized posthumously as this year’s winner of the Hubler Award for a Multidisciplinary Approach to Working with Family Businesses.

“Glenn not only was a good lawyer, but way above and beyond that were his people skills, his capacity to connect with people,” says Tom Hubler, the founder of Minneapolis-based consultancy Hubler for Business Families Inc. and the creator of the Minnesota Family Business Awards. “He was really a friendly, outgoing, caring person, and that came across from the very beginning.”

That personality, combined with his approach and innovative thinking, is why Ayres became a success in family business consulting, Hubler adds. Indeed, Ayres helped shape the field. Hubler hired him in 1985 as president of Hubler/Swartz & Associates, the Minneapolis-based organizational consultancy he founded with Steve Swartz.

Ayres’ area of law expertise was particularly relevant, Hubler says, because trust and estate planning is a key part of developing leadership transition plans for family businesses. A graduate of the University of Minnesota law school, Ayres later made partner at Minneapolis law firm Stacker & Ravich.

According to Hubler, one of Ayres’ lasting contributions to the field is that successful family business management involves “rough corporate justice”—the concept that “you can’t always have equal, but you can have equitable.” As Hubler notes, this idea can be a challenge for families, because they want to treat all their children absolutely equally. The problem, of course, is not all children are created equal—at least not in terms of specific business capabilities.

After Hubler and Swartz sold their firm in 1987, Ayres returned to the practice of law, joining Minneapolis-based Fredrikson & Byron in 1989. He continued to consult on family business matters, and with Hubler and others, co-founded the University of St. Thomas’ Center for Family Enterprise in 1991. From 1996 to 2006, Ayres co-taught a family business management class at St. Thomas.

Carolyn Ayres says that her husband always believed that families were fundamental to society’s culture. As a trust and estates lawyer, he often saw the difficult decisions family members faced when a company owner passed away. “He was empathetic in spades and he was kind in spades; it was in his bones,” she recalls. “He could walk into the most stressed-out family business situations, and he just role-modeled civility and kindness.”

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