I may well simply be restating things that have already been said...
1. Are there really people who were born to families so wealthy that they don't need to work? I mean, if you are really rich, you could just deposit money in the bank and live off the interest. Does this happen?
Yes, but not in the "deposit money in the bank and live off the interest" sense; interest rates are generally too low when compared to inflation to make it a viable strategy.
Those who don't have to work but don't want to just spend the money until its gone tend to take one of two approaches:
1) Landlording; buy a property, rent it out through a property company that does all the work (and takes a fee) and then keep the rest of the money for yourself.
2) Stock/share investments; many companies pay what is known as a "dividend"; in essence it's a bonus paid to shareholders each year. As long as you own the shares you get the money.
As for the children of rich parents, they tend to get what is known as a "Trust Fund". Without getting too technical into the legality and finances behind it, in essence the parents put aside a large amount of money for their children which they can only access under certain conditions; traditionally they get an "allowance" a year, with access to more of money being made available once they pass certain landmarks (turning 18, graduating, getting married etc etc)
2. There are rich people who own or run corporations (I don't think it must be the same thing, right?). So, what happens to their children? Can a corporate head, one day, just decide to pass his role to the daughter? Or have their children get employed like everyone else, starting at the bottom?
Owner and running a company are different. Ownership refers to how many shares in a company someone owns (generally 50%+1 is required for ownership but there are some technical tricks that can be pulled with shares to lower that number). Running a company is simply being in charge of it day to day; generally it comes with a title like Chief Executive or Chief Executive Officer (CEO). An owner isn't necessarily the one who runs the company and whoever runs the company isn't necessarily the owner.
In the case of ownership the parent can simply pass their shares to their child and thus pass ownership. In the case of owning and running the company the owner/runner can simply pass the shares and/or hire the child to a role. In a case where they merely run the company it becomes slightly more difficult but can still be done; the other shareholders or owners may kick up a fuss.
3. If the the answer is the former, then what do ordinary employees think of this kind of situation? Is it considered crass to, say, make your child a head of a large department out of a sudden? Or is it considered normal?
It depends on the company. To give some high profile examples of it happening News Corporation
is owned and run by Rupert Murdoch
who has given high profile roles to his children James
, although the latter two have since left. The WWE
is majority owned by Vince McMahon
who has at various times employed his wife Linda
and children Shane
in high profile corporate (and on-screen) roles. The Rothschild Family
is one of the most infamous banking families in history with multiple different branches, companies and banks. What unites them is that if you look at the board of directors you'll invariably see several with the second name "Rothschild".
In general however, this only really applies to companies where there is a single person/family who is the owner. In a situation where there are institutional investors controlling a large amount in general there tends to not be so much nepotism.
4. Assuming you are *not* a child of a corporation owner, then how do you become a high-ranking corporate executive, exactly? Is it realistic for young person to be one?
You apply for the job and get it, either internally or externally (although "apply for the job" is a bit of a misnomer). Bob Diamond
came from a humble background, started out as an investment banker on the trade floor, moved into more of a management role and eventually ended up running Barclays
. Fred Goodwin
was the son of an electrician, the first of his family to go to university and about as working class as you get but made his way through the banking world to become the head of RBS
. Lloyd Blankfein
, the head of Goldman Sachs and thus arguably the most high ranking corporate executive in the world has a similar background... relatively poor working class, made his way up through the investment banking industry starting at the coalface.
As for "young" it largely depends how you define young and how you define "high-ranking corporate executive". For the real top jobs, CEO, COO and the like, of a major corporate you'll likely be looking at late 30's/early 40's at the youngest... and those are generally pretty exceptional cases with mid-40's to early-50's being more likely. But for positions slightly down the totem pole but still high ranking late 20's-to early 30's becomes a possibility.
I wonder if there is a relatively "cozy" corporate function the second character could have? For example, I keep thinking that she might serve as her family's representative on the corporation's Board of Directors. It wouldn't be *extremely* time-consuming job, would it? So... would such a situation be realistic?
Non-executive director (as in a director who sits on the board but otherwise doesn't have a day job) is a perfect example. For example, the average pay for a non-executive director of a FTSE 100 company (the top 100 companies in the UK) is about £61,000 for a job that can amount to little more than a few days work a month. If a company is part of a group (i.e there's one holding company that owns a number of other companies) the person could sit of multiple boards and earn a lot of money for very little work.
Other options are "consultant" (a vague title which can mean as much or as little as one wants) or to put her on the PR/Marketing side where all she really has to do is party and go to social events.