Creating Value Across Generations in Family-Controlled Businesses: The Role of Family Social Capital


  • We are indebted to Joe Astrachan and Pramodita Sharma for several constructive and insightful comments and for careful editorial work on several versions of this article. We are also grateful to Guido Corbetta and Daniela Montemerlo, to Family Enterprise Research Conference 2007 (FERC) reviewers and participants, ITFERA 2007 reviewers and participants, and IFERA 2006 reviewers and participants. We are heavily indebted to Francesco Chirico and Massimo Pernicone for their support in collecting and analyzing empirical data. This article was initially developed within the FITS Project: We thank Matti Koiranen, project coordinator, for several useful comments and for his enduring support of this research.

Carlo Salvato, EntER—Centre for Research on Entrepreneurship and Entrepreneurs, Bocconi University, Viale Isonzo 23, 20135 Milan, Italy; tel: +39 02 5836 2535; fax: +39 02 5836 2530;

Leif Melin, CeFEO—Centre for Family Enterprise and Ownership, Jönköping International Business School, P.O.Box 1026, SE-551 11 Jönköping, Sweden;


This article explores the processes through which family-controlled businesses (FCBs) access and recombine resources to match the evolving needs of their business activities. We do so by applying the conceptual lens offered by social capital to the comparative study of four FCBs active in traditional competitive arenas. Our data reveal that these firms’ ability to create financial value over generations does not result from possession of some unique resource, nor from higher-level combinative capabilities; rather, these FCBs have systematically created value through their ability to renew and to reshape their social interactions within and outside the controlling family.