Exit Strategies in Family Firms: How Socioemotional Wealth Drives the Threshold of Performance


  • Dawn R. DeTienne,

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Dawn R. DeTienne is Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship, 207 Rockwell Hall, College of Business, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523.
  • Francesco Chirico

    Search for more papers by this author
    • Francesco Chirico is Associate Professor, Jönköping International Business School, Center for Family Enterprise and Ownership—CeFEO, PO Box 1026, SE-551 11 Jönköping, Sweden.

  • We would like to thank the editor, two anonymous reviewers, and the Theories of Family Enterprise Conference (TOFE) for their constructive criticism on this paper. We are also in debt to the members of the Center for Family Enterprise and Ownership (CeFEO) from Jönköping International Business School for their helpful suggestions on earlier versions of this paper.

Please send correspondence to: Dawn R. DeTienne, tel.: (970) 491-6446; e-mail: dawn.detienne@business.colostate.edu, and to Francesco Chirico at Francesco.Chirico@jibs.hj.se.


Although research has shown the ability to exit from both successful and unsuccessful ventures is important to founders, families, firms, industries, and overall economic health, exiting from a family firm can be especially challenging. In this paper, we examine exit strategies in the context of the family firm and the family firm portfolio. Drawing upon threshold theory and the socioemotional wealth perspective, we develop a model that provides guiding theoretical explanations for exit strategies. We address two questions: (1) why do family owners develop specific exit strategies, and (2) how do these strategies differ within family firms and family firm portfolios? In doing so, we contribute to family business, portfolio entrepreneurship, and exit literatures.