Abstract: Family, Inc.—Fashions in Family Business Management and Corporate Culture, Germany ca. 1960 to 2005

Christina Lubinski


Researching fashions of Corporate Governance is a useful tool in order to understand and compare national experiences in business history. A business form which changed profoundly during the twentieth century is the family firm. This paper examines big family firms (more than 250 employees) in Germany roughly from 1960 to 2005. The first part presents findings about the typical characteristics of family influence in ownership and management based on a sample of 310 big businesses. In 1960, half of these firms were family influenced, with the majority sharing features such as a concentration of ownership, an involvement of family members in management, and a strong role for the family in corporate culture. In its second part, the paper discusses significant changes of this Corporate Governance model over time, especially highlighting corporate culture. It describes an evolutionary, yet epoch-making transformation process, which was triggered and reinforced by economic as well as social developments. Therefore, during the last third of the twentieth century, German family firms experienced and actively designed a change in Corporate Governance-"fashion," which the paper explores quantitatively (analyzing ownership and management structures of 310 sample firms) and qualitatively (with the comparison of three case studies).