As the dust settles after more than two years of a fiercely fought battle to avert Mansha group's 'hostile take-over' bid, Adamjees finally appear to have accepted the loss of their flagship- The Adamjee Insurance Company.

The corporate raiders have taken hold of Pakistan's largest Insurance Company, which commands nearly 40 per cent of the total non-life insurance business in the country. But the Adamjee group has a record of surviving winds and storms that have lashed across the country's financial field.

On April 21, 1968, Dr. Mahbubul Haq, the then Chief Economist of the Planning Commission, identified Pakistan's 22 richest families that, according to his calculations, controlled 66 per cent of the industries and owned 87 per cent share in the country's banking and insurance industry.

On the scale of 22, Dr. Haq placed Adamjees on the third slot after the Dawood and Saigols. Adamjees' wealth was estimated at Rs500 million. The Adamjee Jute Mills in former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was the biggest jute mill in the world, with an employee strength of 25,000 workers, producing 100,000 tons of Hessian and gunny bags each year. The group was the largest exporter of jute from Calcutta.

The 22 rich and the mighty had flourished during the Ayubian era, only to be swept away in the wave of nationalizations that followed comrade Z.A Bhutto's coming into power.

Besides the above three: Saigols, Dawood and Adamjee, the rest of the richest groups were: Colony, Fancy, Valika, Jalil, Bawany, Crescent, Wazir Ali, Gandhara, Ispahani, Habib, Khyber, Nishat, Beco, Gul Ahmed, Arag, Hafiz, Karim, Milwala and Dada-the last holding total assets of Rs 90 million. And the big families went into big businesses in which they could summon the greatest expertise. Habibs laid the foundations of Pakistan's first and the largest bank- Habib Bank Limited and Adamjees set up the Muslim Commercial Bank.

It is an irony (of fate) that on privatisation, the Muslim Commercial Bank also was bought over by the Mansha group. The best of companies of Adamjees, which they founded and nourished- MCB and Adamjee Insurance- have both passed into the hands of the Mansha group.

Adamjees may be down but they are not out-at least not yet. The group still owns some 20 companies including Adamjee Diesel Engineering. Half a dozen of group companies are listed at the stock exchanges.

A veteran industrialist recalls that in the six years of his iron-fisted rule, Z.A. Bhutto pulled into the nationalisation fold as many as 31 key industries; 13 banks; 12 insurance companies; 10 shipping companies and two petroleum companies. Out of those, at least two dozen industries and almost all the banks and insurance companies belonged to the 22 families.

Nationalization was a major blow for the country's rich and powerful. Those who were unable to withstand the onslaught vanished into thin air. Fancy, Valika, Ispahani, Beco, Arag, Milwala, Khyber and Hyesons groups are alive only in the books of history.

The ravages of time now sees grandsons and granddaughters of those who once frequented the then Karachi's only five-star hotel 'Columbus' and drive around in Chevrolets, toil quietly at 9 to 5 jobs in the US and Canada. But if nature abhors vacuum, it is nowhere more true than in case of Pakistan's business, economic and financial world. As most of the old guards of communities (Khojas, Memons and Bohras) who had sown the seeds of business and finance in Pakistan, packed up what was left of their wealth and migrated abroad, the top slots were quickly filled up by new groups.

By the turn of the century, Nishat or Mansha group, arguably, had emerged as Pakistan's wealthiest conglomerate. Other groups that now run big businesses and control much of the country's wealth include: Crescent; Dewan; Ittefaq; Saigols; Chakwal; Habib; Saphire; Gul Ahmed; Packages; Atlas; Hashwanis; Bibojee; Dawood; Monnoos; Fecto; Lakson; Gatron; Sargodha; Al-Noor and Fateh group of Hyderabad.

It is easy to check out common names in the list of country's richest in 1968 and now. But many of the surviving 22 families have not been able to escape the natural divisions and disintegration, which follows one generation after another.

A friend often refers to the Chinese proverb that says: "Great fortunes do not see third generation". The reason being that the grandfather works all his life to build the financial empire; his sons inherit and being brothers somehow manage to keep up the tie; but the third generation is that of cousins, with little love for the other. Thus a feud follows, resulting into disintegration and eventual collapse of many a big businesses.

What better example of such disintegration than that of South Koreas' conglomerate-the Hyundai Group. The group, founded by patriarch Chung Ju-Yung in the 1960s, grew into South Korea's biggest business group with interests ranging from construction and shipbuilding to retail outlets.

The group hit the skids during the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis and never recovered. Troubles deepened with the passing of control from founding father Chung to his sons soon after the crisis, with the siblings feuding for control of the conglomerate.

Chung Mong-Hun, the founder's fifth son, finally inherited the group in early 2000, but in name only, following the spin-off of key units such as Hyundai Heavy Industries, the country's largest shipbuilder, and Hyundai Motor Co. Hyundai is no longer South Koreas biggest business group.

The sibling rivalry has shrunk the group into just a minor conglomerate with only 11 units. One has only to admire the wisdom of old Chinese sage who whispered long, long time ago: "Great fortunes do not see third generation!"

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