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Keywords:

  • long-term orientation;
  • succession;
  • ownership transfer;
  • family firms;
  • performance

Abstract

We contrast the performance consequences of intra-family versus external ownership transfers. Investigating a sample of all private family firms in Sweden that went through ownership transfers during 10 years, we find that firms transferred to external owners outperform those transferred within the family, but that survival is higher among intra-family transfers. We attribute these performance differences to the long-term orientation of family firms passed on to the next generation and to the entrepreneurial willingness of acquirers to bear uncertainty. Based on distinct ownership transition routes and theoretical mechanisms explaining performance differences, we outline implications for family business and entrepreneurship research. Copyright © 2011 Strategic Management Society.