Large family firms fall between two theoretical accounts. Neither do they follow the development path described by Alfred D. Chandler nor do they resemble small- and medium sized Mittelstand firms, which Gary Herrigel highlighted as a successful alternative. That is why so far there has been little research about them beyond individual case studies. This article focuses on large family firms in Germany during the second half of the twentieth century. Based on a regionally focused sample of 310 businesses the author offers insights into their ownership and management in 1960 and asks how the firms developed until 2008. The majority of large family firms had surprisingly homogenous characteristics, such as concentrated long-term family ownership, few shareholders, and family management. This structure was successful within the historical context of the 1960s but came under attack during the crisis-ridden decades that followed. By tracing these changes, the paper simultaneously shows that the theoretical dichotomy of family and managerial firm is misleading. Instead of interpreting the family firm as a static organization, the focus should shift to the family influence, which evolves with time and with the evolution of business’s macroeconomic and political environments.
|Translated title of the contribution
|Between Family Heritage and Global Market: Changes in Ownership and Management of Large West-German Family Firms (1960-2008)
|Zeitschrift für Unternehmensgeschichte
|Published - 2010