Most offspring fights can be embarrassing, ridiculous and petty. Some may wonder why family members just can’t get along. But there is a compelling explanation why a family A member will go to the full extent of hurting a family member. Some may think physically hurting a blood relative is a stretch but the story of the Sytin sibling conflict that recently hugged national news is a case in point. The escalating conflict pitting two siblings that resulted in the murder of the older brother proves one thing, “that blood is not thicker than water after all!”

A Corporate Dispute and Murder 

In a Rappler report that came out just last week, the police pointed to the slain businessman Dominic Sytin's own brother as the mastermind in his killing. No less than the National Police Chief, Director General Oscar Albayalde said there was a "direct link" between the alleged gunman who was arrested, Edgardo Luib, and Dominic's younger brother, Dennis Sytin. The PNP Chief went further by saying that "this high-profile murder of Dominic Sytin was apparently motivated by rivalry among corporate siblings, and carried out through a gun-for-hire contract with a hitman." 

Sytin was shot and killed in the evening of November 28, 2018 as he stepped out of the Lighthouse Hotel inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone. He was acknowledged as the founder, CEO and president of United Auctioneers, Inc. (UAI), a leading company engaged in the importation of secondhand vehicles. The family is also the exclusive Philippine distributor of Foton Motors.

The police investigation focused on corporate dispute and according to Criminal Investigation and Detection Group Chief Director Amador Corpus, Dennis was apparently fired from UAI after he formed his own company and was also accused of allegedly diverting money from the business. Before the death of Dominic, there was already disagreements between the siblings related to the ownership of shares of UAI. 

What Really Went Wrong?

Mark Accettura, author of the book “Blood & Money:  Why Families Fight Over Inheritance and What to Do About It” has a clear explanation, “the combatants can always trace their problems back several years, if not all the way back to childhood.  It is clear that inheritance conflict doesn’t come out of the blue; it is a continuation of long-term relationship problems that resurface upon the illness or death of a loved one. And they aren’t just about money or greed; they are about more, much more. But what is it that so often drives people to wage war against their own flesh and blood over a loved one’s estate?

When family owned businesses enter the entropy stage, expect everything to go downhill. This phase sets the stage for a major finale before the breakup. It is no revelation that conflict often ensues when the leader does not define the rules of engagement amongst its active and non-active members. Focusing on wealth generation alone instead of preserving the wealth is tempting but dangerous especially when family members have no rules related to ownership entry and exit. Nor is it a secret that the presence of asset sucking non-blood but extended members can rile family members that will cause further harm. 

Accettura is correct in saying that the old adage that “money makes people do funny things” doesn’t do justice to the real problems and root causes of family conflict. Money is not the core reason that families fight; money is how we keep score in the fight for the intangibles of love, approval, and primordial survival. When families fight, greed is rarely the principal motive.