The Performance of Foundation-Owned Companies
31 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2014
Date Written: October 11, 2013
A number of world class companies – such as the Tata Group, Robert Bosch, and Bertelsmann -- are majority owned by charitable nonprofit foundations. This structure places control of the company in the hands of a self-perpetuating foundation board that is immune to outside discipline through a proxy fight or hostile acquisition, and whose members receive no incentive compensation. Conventional economic theories of corporate governance predict that such companies would be riven with agency costs and therefore highly inefficient. Yet previous studies find that companies owned by industrial foundations seem to perform as well as more conventional investor-owned companies. In this paper we reassess the relative performance of foundation-owned companies by comparing a substantial sample of them from the Nordic countries with various different samples of investor-owned Nordic companies, including matched pairs of companies in the same industry and of comparable size. We find that, overall, foundation-owned companies have similar accounting profitability, take less risk, and grow more slowly than listed investor-owned companies. We offer alternative theories regarding the costs and benefits of foundation ownership that appear consistent with our results.
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