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End of an Era

The day that company executives sold Carnation to Nestlé, all of that changed. Our family’s wealth, most of which was tied up for almost a century in Carnation stock, suddenly became liquid. And the family’s ties to Carnation, the company that for years prided itself on giving Americans “better milk from contented cows,” were suddenly severed.

The aftermath of Carnation’s sale to Nestlé offered my family a unique opportunity to decide how its members would relate to one another now that they no longer had a day-to-day business to run. But that also posed some unique challenges: challenges of identity, purpose, leadership, and family legacy. Carnation had been my family’s life and work for 86 years. Now that it was gone, what would we do? In the early 1900s, when my great-grandfather had first thought about selling Carnation, his son, E. H. Stuart, Carnation’s second president, pleaded with him not to. “If you do, I won’t know what to do with myself,” he said. Now that reality had come to pass. And we, E. A’s descendants, had to deal with it.

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