The principal–principal (PP) perspective of corporate governance shows that multiple large shareholder (MLS) structure has competing monitoring and entrenchment governance effects. We argue that the dominant effect depends on contest for control among large shareholders and the number of large shareholders involved. Using data from Chinese family listed companies from 2004 to 2007, this study shows inverse U-shaped relationships between contest for control and corporate market value, as measured by Tobin's Q, and between the number of large shareholders and corporate market value. Findings indicate that at low to medium levels of contest for control or number of large shareholders, formal institutions can strengthen MLS structure's monitoring effect and can help this effect last longer. As a whole, the findings extend the institution-based view in the context of family corporate governance by showing that formal institutions can shape the ability of MLS structure to exert governance.