Industrial Foundations as Long‐term Owners

Steen Thomsen, Thomas Poulsen, Christa Børsting, Johan Kuhn

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Manuscript Type: Empirical
Research Question/Issue: Does foundation ownership lead to long‐term corporate governance and business behavior in foundation‐owned companies?
Research Findings/Insights: Short‐termism has become a serious concern for corporate governance, and this has inspired a search for institutional arrangements to promote long‐term decision‐making. In this paper, we call attention to long‐term ownership by industrial foundations, which is common in Northern Europe but little known in the rest of the world. We use a unique Danish data set to document that industrial foundations are long‐term owners that practice long‐term governance. We show that foundation ownership is highly stable compared to other ownership structures. Foundation‐owned companies replace managers less frequently. They have conservative capital structures with low financial leverage. They score higher on an index of long‐termism in finance, investment, and employment. They survive longer. Overall, our paper supports the hypothesis that corporate time horizons are influenced by ownership structures, and particularly that industrial foundations possess characteristics that promote long‐termism. Policymakers, business owners, and managers interested in promoting long‐term governance models should therefore reconsider the role of ownership structure.
Theoretical/Academic Implications: This paper supports the hypothesis that time horizons are influenced by ownership commitment and particularly that industrial foundations promote long‐termism. We contribute to the corporate governance literature by further developing the concept of long‐termism as a multi‐faceted corporate governance concept associated with ownership commitment. We also show that foundation ownership is associated with long‐termism.
Practitioner/Policy Implications: Policymakers interested in promoting long‐termism should encourage long‐term ownership, for example by industrial foundations. Practitioners should consider the importance of ownership commitment in ensuring long‐term corporate governance.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCorporate Governance: An International Review
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)180-196
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - May 2018


  • Corporate governance
  • Industrial foundations
  • Long‐termism

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