This paper investigates the relationship between ownership concentration and market value of European banks, and the role of the institutional environment in shaping this relationship. Using GMM dynamic estimator on a sample of European banks over a 13-year period (1993–2005) we find on average a negative effect of ownership concentration on bank value, measured by Tobin's Q. However, this effect varies across different institutional settings; while higher ownership concentration results in a lower bank value particularly in the countries belonging to German legal family, the impact of ownership concentration is positive in Scandinavia. We propose that, besides the legal protection of small investors, the differences in the impact of ownership concentration across the countries could be due to the identity of the predominant owners, i.e. financial institutions in Germany and trusts and foundations in Scandinavia. This in turn implies that restrictions of shareholdings in banks could alleviate governance problems in some countries, but lower bank valuation in others.