CEO characteristics and family firm performance

Many researchers aimed to find out how CEO characteristics affect the performance of large, publicly listed non-family firms. But how about family firms, in which the CEO often has a specific role and long tenure? Is there any specific relationship between CEO age or education and family firm performance? HSG-student Tobias Schori aimed to answer this research question in his master thesis. He collected data on 142 listed family firms from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and France in 2013 and finds the following:

  • Functional diversity of the CEO – meaning that the CEO had worked in several different functional areas of the company – has a significant, positive effect on family firm performance (measured as profitability)
  • There is slight evidence that the higher the education of the CEO, the better the family firm performance (measured as Tobin’s Q).
  • Interestingly, the positive effect of CEO education and CEO functional diversity exists for family firms with more than 25% family ownership – but disappears when considering family firms with 5-25% family ownership
  • Contrarily to what we expected, the age of the CEO and the tenure of the CEO did not significantly affect firm performance

The following table illustrates some of the key variables and in particular differences between family and non-family CEOs.

In case of questions or if interested in the full text, please contact nadine.kammerlander[at]

Descriptive data (source: T. Schori)
Descriptive data (source: T. Schori)

Patenting behavior of family firms

In his thesis, Dario Flückiger examined the patenting behavior of 69 automotive companies with European headquarters over the course of 3 years. Here is what he found:

  • There is no significant difference in the number of patents between family and non-family firms
  • However, patents of family firms are significantly less cited than that of non-family firms. This could be a sign of family firms innovating less radically with their innovations having less impact for the entire industry development
  • In terms of sales growth and profitability, family firms were outperforming non-family firms
  • Number of patents and patent citations both had a positive and significant effect on sales growth (measured with a 3-year time lag).
  • However, interestingly, number of patents and patent citations had a negative and significant effect on profitability (measured with a 3-year time lag)

If you are interested in the full results, please send an email to nadine.kammerlander [at]