Managing a company with your mate is not easy. If the business is struggling, that can damage your relationship. If the relationship is struggling, that can damage the business. And even if the company is thriving, the marriage can fall apart – in an ugly way.
That was underscored with the latest chapter in the sad saga of Tory and Chris Burch. In 2004, the then-married couple founded Tory Burch. And while it grew into a global fashion brand, its two founders divorced – and at one point, became competitors.
After the fact, it may be easy to spot the signs of trouble in the relationship or business (or both). But usually, couples who run companies together are figuring it out as they go along. The key to success: Setting clear boundaries between work and home, and communicating openly when there’s a problem. “Be really explicit [about] what’s allowed to spill over and what’s not,” says Nancy Rothbard, Professor of Management at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Here are seven famous examples of brands created by couples – and what happened after.
Chris and Tory Burch
In 2004, Chris Burch, a successful entrepreneur and investor, helped his wife Tory open the first Tory Burch retail store. By 2006, the couple had divorced. In 2011, the relationship took a strange turn when Chris debuted C. Wonder, a clothing line viewed as so similar to the Tory Burch brand that his business was dubbed a"revenge retail company." A legal battle between Chris and Tory ensued.
Telling quote:In 2012, Chris told Vanity Fair, "[Tory Burch] never could have existed without me, and it never could have existed without Tory." Some Tory Burch company representatives disputed that account, saying that Chris was not involved in day-to-day operations.
The upshot:Tory and Chris announced a settlement of their legal battles in December 2012. The privately-held Tory Burch company is hugely successful and has been estimated to be worth more than $3 billion. Earlier this month, BuzzFeed reported that Chris was shutting down C. Wonder, but he's still pursuing another venture with comedienne Ellen DeGeneres. Together, they're launching her new fashion line, E.D.