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Economica (2015) 82, 1177–1216 doi:10.1111/ecca.12156 Family Firms, Corporate Governance and Export
†Michigan State University

‡Lumsa University

Final version received 20 June 2015.
This paper investigates the effects of family ownership on export using rich data on Italian firms. We find that family ownership increases the probability that firms export. This benefit is especially pronounced when family owners retain control rights and seek the support of external managers. The results suggest that families better internalize the long-run benefits of internationalization, but that their limited competencies attenuate this benefit in high-tech industries and in remote and unfamiliar export markets.
Family firms also exhibit some tendency to enter foreign markets in a progressive way (sequential exporting) and through limited collaborations with foreign firms and intermediaries.

In a global economy, export markets are an important venue for firms to grow. For this reason, scholars and policymakers intensely debate the determinants of firms’ international expansion. There is a growing consensus that firms’ corporate governance influences their ability to export. In recent editorials on the costs and benefits of family firms, The Economist (2012, 2013) mentions the successful experience of German and
Northern European family firms in international markets, arguing that these firms have led the export boom of their countries. According to The Economist, a key benefit of family owners is their long-termism, that is, their ability to internalize the long-run benefits of expanding abroad. In line with these arguments, Ward (2006) reports the results of a survey conducted among 300 executives: 43% of the executives of non-family firms acknowledged that their companies under-invested in long-term…...

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