Centre for Owner-Managed Businesses

Research reports and articles

In recent years a growing interest has been found in ownership structures and different business transfer models. Below is shown a selection of some of the crucial research within the field.

Owner-management in Denmark - Report 7: Personal clarification in connection with the transfer of ownership

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Personlig afklaring i forbindelse med ejerskifte (report only available in Danish)
Ellen M. Korsager, June 2019
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 6: The market-related and institutional challenges with transfer of ownership

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - De markedsmæssige og institutionelle udfordringer ved ejerskifte (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen, June 2019
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 5: Personal and family-related challenges in connection with the transfer of ownership

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Personlige og familiemæssige udfordringer i forbindelse med ejerskifte (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen, June 2018
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 4: The successful transfer of ownership
The theme of the fourth report on ownership management in Denmark is the successful change of ownership. The focus is on the experiences of a well-planned ownership transfer in a broad sense - which includes both the traditional ownership change, the professionalization of the business with a new management and new investors, as well as the sale of the business to new owners.

The report's main points are communicated through cases and the report shows, among other things that if businesses choose a succession, the family (the owners) need to create a long-term plan that is to be provided and communicated explicitly among the family members. In addition, the next generation's competencies and abilities are crucial in continuing the business. Education also proves to be a decisive factor: Managers and owners in the most successful successions have more education, management and board experience than the managers and owners in the less succesful successions.

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Det gode ejerskifte  (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen & Kasper Meisner Nielsen, September 2017
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 3: The owner-managers and the transfer of ownership
The report is intended for owner-managers in Danish businesses as well as accountants, consultants and other stakeholders in owner-managed businesses in Denmark. The report aims to inspire and provide information that is valuable in the planning of the future of owner-managed businesses.

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Ejerlederne og ejerskiftet (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen og Kasper Meisner Nielsen, May 2016
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 2: The financial consequences of a transfer of ownership in Denmark
In the second report under the title "Owner-Management in Denmark" Professor Morten Bennedsen and Professor Kasper Meisner Nielsen uncover the number of changes of managing directors and ownership changes in owner-managed businesses in Denmark since 1995, and how many to expect in the future. The report also examines the financial impacts that the changes in management and ownership have had on the businesses.

The report states among other things, that most changes occur at management levels, i.e either through a professionalization with new directors from outside of the business but without a change of ownership, or in preparation for a succession as new family members enter the management of the business, and that the profit margin of the business declines with successions.

PDF iconEjerledelse i Dammark - De økonomiske konsekvenser af ejerskifte i Danmark 
(report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen, April 2016
Owner-management in Denmark - Report 1: Background and spreading
In this research report the professors Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen investigates Danish owner-managed businesses. The report shows that owner-management is the most widespread ownership structure in Denmark - almost 4 out of 5 Danish businesses are owner-managed. The report focuses especially on business transfers. Within the coming 10 years 23.000 of Danish businesses shall transfer their businesses to a new owner. The report investigates owner- and leadership, board of directors, exit and succession.

The report is the first out of six reports about "Owner-Management in Denmark". The aim of these reports is to create knowledge that can ensure long-term planning in owner-managed businesses.

The report is available in full length and in a shorter pixie-version.

PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Baggrund og udbredelse - pixie-version
PDF iconEjerledelse i Danmark - Baggrund og udbredelse  (report only available in Danish) 
Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen, February 2015
Article: The death of the CEO costs the earth
In the article from Danish Industry Business Morten Bennedsen researcher of COMB states that most companies have plans for what to do if an employee falls ill, but there is a lack of focus on the wellbeing of the top management. The death of the CEO is not only a tragic event - research show that it can also be expensive for investors and businesses. The results underline how important it is to be aware of how a business can continue, if the CEO becomes ill or dies, as such situation may result in a large loss of value for the company.

PDF iconDirektørens død koster kassen (article only available in Danish)
DI Business, March 2017

Article: Family assets can play a significant role in family businesses
Family businesses need to identify how their core assets fit with the current economic environment; how they can be transferred to the next generation, and how they can add value to the firm’s business strategy. Some family assets are intangible - the family name, their history, values-based leadership and skills. According to this article from Insead by Morten Bennedsen the planning of the succession and the continuation of family assets to the next generation are essential for the survival and success of the business.

Enduring firms transfer assets and knowledge effectively
Morten Bennedsen
, December 2016

Deloitte survey maps out the values and challenges of the next generation of owner-managers
From January to
May 2016 Deloitte EMEA Family Business Center
conducted nearly 100 in-depth interviews with future leaders of family-owned businesses in Europe, Middle East and Africa. The results of the study show that one of the biggest challenges for the new owner-managers include keeping family values alive, that 80% say that their leadership will be different compared to the previous generation, and that innovation is among the top three priorities for the future leaders. Read more about the results here:

PDF iconNext generation family businesses - Evolution - keeping family values alive
Deloitte EMEA Family Business Center, May 2016
Article: The next generation is ill-prepared
Denmark is one of the countries in the world where it is easiest to start a business, but when the ownership of the business needs to be transferred, it is very costly. In this feature article from Børsen newspaper researcher from Centre for Owner-managed Businesses, Ellen M. Korsager, writes about how vital it is to understand that ownership is about much more than control. Ellen M. Korsager explains that ownership is about identity, about ambition and a sense of belonging, which makes it difficult for the individual owner to imagine the company without him or herself as a part of it. She therefore calls on the owner-managers to look into the future and to imagine the company without themselves as managers, while there are still the best chances to ensure the company's growth and future.

Næste generation er for dårligt forberedt (article only available in Danish)
Ellen M. Korsager, November 2015
Family Businesses in Denmark
The professors Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen investigates in this study from 2014 the status of Danish family businesses. It becomes clear that family ownership is the most widespread form of business ownership in Denmark - close to 9 out of 10 businesses can be categorized as family businesses and the vast majority of these are owner-managed. A quarter of the owner-managed businesses will within a relatively short time frame face the need for a transition of ownership. According to the authors such a transition often cause doubt and complications for the owner-managers. The transition can be difficult to plan and manage, and it is a challenge for the owner-managers to define their own role in the company after retiring. Simultaneously, the change of owner-manager have a negative impact on the financial performance of the company when transitioning to a family related owner-manager without the right skills.

Family Businesses in Denmark (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen, March 2014
The Family Business Map - Assets and Roadblocks in long Term Planning
In their book from 2014 the professors Morten Bennedsen and Joseph P.H. Fan argues that family businesses across the globe face the same difficulty in planning long-term strategy. Combining the expertise of two consultants and academics from East and West, this book provides an international guide for family businesses, showing how to identify and implement the most effective governance strategies.

The Family Business Map - Assets and Roadblocks in long Term Planning
Morten Bennedsen and Joseph P.H. Fan, September 2014
Evaluation of the implementation of the 2006 commission on business transfers
This study investigates the structural improvements for business transfers in the EU countries. The general conclusion is that there has not been much further progress in the implementation of measures to improve the framework for business transfers since the 2006 Communication. The main earlier gains were in changes in legislation and improvements in relation to inheritance law and tax. There have been fewer developments in areas such as tax-arrangements for third parties or employees or in the provision of dedicated support and finance initiatives.

Further, the report recommends that the ‘relevance’ of the traditional conception of business transfer should be questioned. Transfer is an event in the development of a business that can happen at any time, not just when an owner is reaching retirement. Transfers has a significant part to play in a dynamic economy, especially in the organic process of re-allocating resources and restructuring the productive assets of the economy.

PDF iconEvaluation of the implementation of the 2006 commission on business transfers
Centre for Strategy and Evaluation Processes, December 2013
Business Dynamics - Start-ups, Business transfers and Bankruptcy
This study from 2011  analyses the economic impact of legal and administrative procedures for licensing, business transfers and bankruptcy on entrepreneurship in Europe. Three key conclusions emerge after synthesis of the study results, namely:

1. Reduction of regulatory framework complexity is important, as it has a considerable impact on entrepreneurial activity.
2. An integrated approach in improving the regulatory framework is needed to ensure all aspects of enterprise life cycle are addressed.
3. Regulatory framework should be more supportive of the active population of entrepreneurs.

PDF icon Business Dynamics: Start-ups, Business transfers and Bankruptcy
European Commission Enterprise and Industry, January 2011
Growth through generation transitions
The report describes the most important characteristics of succession in Danish family businesses. It concludes that family successions in Danish family businesses have been very costly and far exceeded the cost that was previously assumed.

PDF iconGrowth through succession (report only available in Danish)
Morten Bennedsen and Kasper Meisner Nielsen, September 2008
Inside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance
This paper uses a unique dataset from Denmark to investigate the impact of family characteristics in corporate decision making and the consequences of these decisions on firm performance. It investigates the factors determining whether family businesses´ decides to appoint a family-related or external CEO. The study finds that family successions have a large negative causal impact on firm performance: Operating profitability on assets falls by at least four percentage points around CEO transitions.

PDF iconInside the Family Firm: The Role of Families in Succession Decisions and Performance
Morten Bennedsen, Kasper Meisner Nielsen, Francisco Perez-Gonzalez and Daniel Wolfenzon, 2007
Transfer of businesses – continuity through a new beginning
In this European-Commission report from 2002  a group of experts nominated by their national administrations set benchmarks for key areas on business transfers, and determine the areas in most urgent need of further progress. They describe the actions already taken or planned by the different countries and by the European Commission to improve the implementation of the Commission Recommendation. The expert group found that less than half of the measures set out in the Commission Recommendation have been implemented and that available support is fragmented. To further assist business transfers, the experts put forward new proposals for action in the area of provision of support for business transfers and asked the Commission to work closely with the membership countries to implement these proposals.

PDF iconTransfer of businesses – continuity through a new beginning
European Commission, May 2002
Article: Family Businesses - United by diversity
In this article Professor Morten Bennedsen problematize the lacking existence of a clear and general definition of the term "family business".

Morten Bennedsen defines family companies as companies with families as either owners or managers or a combination of the two. They must involve more than one family member, and there has to be a succession, or a planned succession, from one generation to another. In the article Morten Bennedsens explain that this basic model comes in four main flavours.

United by diversity
Morten Bennedsen, April 2015
Article: Ownership and control in Family Businesses
Family ownership can vary from thousands of family members to just one single owner. How to choose the right number?

As a firm’s ownership structure affects the incentives, behaviour and, ultimately, the performance of family members, managers and other stakeholders in the firm. It is therefore essential to get the formula right. Designing a sound ownership structure will resolve the allocation of voting rights, the transferability of ownership rights and set out how profits and losses are shared. It is the most effective way to minimize the impact of roadblocks in a family business. When designing an ownership structure it is utterly important to keep the arrangement flexible, so changes can be made over time as the family and business grows.

There are four challenges to bear in mind when looking at ownership design.
1. Raising capital without giving up control
2. Dealing with ownership diffusion due to the power of numbers
3. Using trusts and foundations to your advantage
4. Going public and still retaining control

How much control should you have over your firm?
Morten Bennedsen, February 2015

Article: Don't leave succession plans hanging in family firms

In the article Professor Morten Bennedsen argues the importance of long-term planning when an owner-managed business is facing a succession. Bennedsen establishes three basic rules for how family and owner-managed businesses to prepare and implement a successful succession:

  • Identify: Evaluate current and prospective family assets and roadblocks.
  • Plan: Determine the appropriate ownership structure and management choices
  • Cultivate: Align the ownership design to both family and corporate governance

These three steps should be implemented and maintained focus on long before a change of ownership takes place. An important step is the formulation of a strategic plan that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the company. In doing so, the family business owner can ensure that the direction and pace of growth stay in line with expectations

Bennedsen thus emphasizes that no matter the size of the company, the founder must develop a business plan 20 years ahead of a change of ownership, which unfortunately hardly ever is a reality.

Don't leave succession plans hanging in family firms
Morten Bennedsen, August 2015


The page was last edited by: Department of Economics // 10/03/2019