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Inside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance

  • Morten Bennedsen

    (Copenhagen Business School)

  • Kasper Nielsen

    (University of Copenhagen)

  • Francisco Pérez-González

    (Columbia University)

  • Daniel Wolfenzon

    (New York University)

Registered author(s):

    This paper uses a unique dataset from Denmark to investigate (1) the role of family characteristics in corporate decision making, and (2) the consequences of these decisions on firm performance. We focus on the decision to appoint either a family or an external chief executive officer (CEO). We show that a departing CEO’s family characteristics have a strong predictive power in explaining CEO succession decisions: family CEOs are more frequently selected the larger the size of the family, the higher the ratio of male children and when the departing CEOs had only had one spouse. We then analyze the impact of family successions on performance. We overcome endogeneity and omitted variables problems of previous papers in the literature by using the gender of a departing CEO’s first-born child as an instrumental variable (IV) for family successions. This is a plausible IV as male first-child family firms are more likely to pass on control to a family CEO than female first-child firms, but the gender of the first child is unlikely to affect firms’ performance. We find that family successions have a dramatic negative causal impact on firm performance: profitability on assets falls by at least 6 percentage points around CEO transitions. These estimates are significantly larger than those obtained using ordinary least squares. Finally, our findings demonstrate that professional non-family CEOs provide extremely valuable services to the organizations they work for.

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    Paper provided by University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics. Centre for Industrial Economics in its series CIE Discussion Papers with number 2005-13.

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    Length: 31 pages
    Date of creation: Jun 2005
    Date of revision: Sep 2005
    Handle: RePEc:kud:kuieci:2005-13
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    1. Bhattacharya, Utpal & Ravikumar, B, 2001. "Capital Markets and the Evolution of Family Businesses," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(2), pages 187-219, April.
    2. Bergstrom, T.C., 1993. "A Survey of Theories of the Family," Papers 93-02, Michigan - Center for Research on Economic & Social Theory.
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    9. Weiss, Y., 1992. "The Formation and Dissolution of Families: Why Marry? Who Marries Whom ? and What Happens Upon Marriage and Divorce," University of Chicago - Economics Research Center 92-7, Chicago - Economics Research Center.
    10. Daniela del Boca, 2001. "Mothers, Fathers And Children After Divorce: The Role Of Institutions," CHILD Working Papers wp25_01, CHILD - Centre for Household, Income, Labour and Demographic economics - ITALY.
    11. Mike Burkart & Fausto Panunzi & Andrei Shleifer, 2002. "Family Firms," NBER Working Papers 8776, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
      • Mike Burkart & Fausto Panunzi & Andrei Shleifer, 2003. "Family Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 58(5), pages 2167-2202, October.
    12. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2004. "The Demand for Sons: Evidence from Divorce, Fertility, and Shotgun Marriage," NBER Working Papers 10281, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Randall K. Morck & David A. Strangeland & Bernard Yeung, 1998. "Inherited Wealth, Corporate Control and Economic Growth," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 209, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
    14. Faccio, Mara & Lang, Larry H. P., 2002. "The ultimate ownership of Western European corporations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 365-395, September.
    15. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
    16. Ralph Chami, 2001. "What is Different About Family Businesses?," IMF Working Papers 01/70, International Monetary Fund.
    17. Gordon B. Dahl & Enrico Moretti, 2008. "The Demand for Sons," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1085-1120.
    18. Randall Morck & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1987. "Characteristics of Hostile and Friendly Takeover Targets," NBER Working Papers 2295, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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