Some seize the opportunity. Mark Getty of the oil family is a good example. Getty, who lives in London, was working as a banker at Hambros in the early 1990s when he set about finding a way of channelling the Getty millions into worthwhile ventures.
With Jonathan Klein, a Hambros colleague, he invested in Conservation Corporation, an ethically-minded South African game reserve operator.
Getty and Klein teamed up again to buy Hulton Deutsch, a famous photo library. A decade on, the renamed Getty Images employs 2,400 people and has a stock of 70 million still images.
I recently ran into another good example of using the family money to good effect – this time involving the Ford car dynasty. Henry Ford’s great, great grandson, Al Uzielli, was working as a film producer in Los Angeles when he felt the entrepreneurial urge stirring.
In 2001, he bought Halcyon Days, the rather twee maker of little enamel boxes. Still in his late thirties, Uzielli is busily building it up into an international operation. Along the way, he bought La Dolce Vita, a Hollywood eaterie beloved of stars like George Clooney.
He spends the rest of his time arranging product placement of Ford cars into films such as xXx and TV series such as Desperate Housewives.
I’ve met both Uzielli and Getty and you couldn’t meet two more modest, self-effacing characters. There was not a trace of arrogance in either of them. Perhaps that’s what comes from being ‘old money’.
Jon Ashworth is business features editor at The Times
Peter Terry joins the North West advisory team
The average cost of fraud increased 35.4% to £3.9m in 2016, compared to 2015 data
Tallat Mahmood appointed to corporate finance team of Top 20 firm
Andrew Tyrie airs views on the Finance Bill, 'Making Tax Policy Better' report, and Brexit