Guinness Family History

[The Guinness family owned the brewing company for seven generations of men named Arthur]

When the first Arthur Guinness died in 1803, the Second Arthur, as the eldest son to enter the family business, became the patriarch and head brewer at St. James’s Gate. In 1820, when the Second Arthur withdrew from his management role to focus his attention on banking and shed the mantle of head brewer, the next step in the succession was a great deal more complicated.

The Second Arthur’s brothers, Benjamin Guinness and William Lunell Guinness had joined him in the management at the family business early in the century, and they were still involved in 1820. Meanwhile, the Second Arthur’s sons, Arthur Lee Guinness, age 23, and Benjamin Lee Guinness, age 22, were also coming of age and interested in the brewery.

In 1820, the Second Arthur Guinness relinquished his title as head brewer, passing the title to John Purser. Meanwhile, both John Purser Sr. and John Purser Jr. became partners at St. James’s Gate. The latter’s son, John Tertius Purser, would join the company as an apprentice in 1825 at the age of 16.

In contrast to the succession from the second to third generation, the transition to the fourth was very straightforward. Since the death of John Purser Jr. in 1858, Benjamin Lee had been the sole owner, and he had made no new partnership agreements. His second son and namesake, Benjamin Lee, opted out of the business, leaving eldest son Arthur Edward and youngest son Edward Cecil Guinness as the heirs apparent. As Patrick Lynch and John Vaizey point out, “The two sons inherited the fortune and the business, while John Tertius Purser had a considerable bequest from his own father, John Purser Jr., a salary and a ‘centage’ on all the sales of beer. There was great hazard in leaving the brewery in the hands of the two young men alone, but Purser was a guarantee that responsibility and experience would remain at the helm.”

It had been a decade of immense change for Guinness, a decade that marked a true changing of the guard. In 1988, a year after Benjamin Guinness had left the chairmanship for the ceremonial post of president the men on the Guinness PLC executive board average fewer than five years within the company. “When Benjamin Iveagh died in 1992, all family connection came to an end,” wrote Michelle Guinness in her book.

from Yenne, Bill. Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint. (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, 2007).

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