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THE ISSUES Cover story


money, you will still be my son, but you will not be fit for this business.”’ So much for scions’ easy ride. Now Decaux fils is the smooth and confident co-chief executive of JCDecaux, it is clear the bet paid off. Decaux said: ‘I could easily have gone to work for L’Oréal or Procter & Gamble but proving to my fa- ther that I was capable of meeting the challenge was something which was very appealing for me.’ Pleased with the results, it was no surprise that his father sanctioned sending his two other sons, Jean- Charles and Jean-Sébastien, to develop Spain and Italy respectively when they joined the family firm in 1989 and 1998.


P


utting a scion at the helm of a company is often an emblem of long-term thinking from which all shareholders benefit – even if the boards of family businesses tend to be less diverse, as was noted in EY and the University of St Gallen’s Global Family Business Index. In 2019 the same report found that total revenue of the top 500 family firms was up 9.9 per cent compared with 8.6 per cent in the Fortune 500. In a 2018 report, Credit Suisse found that fami- ly-owned companies – those where founders or descendants hold at least 20 per cent of the shares or the voting rights – had outper- formed non-family-owned companies since 2006. They tend to ex- hibit better top-line growth, higher profitability, lower borrowing and make decisions with longer time horizons, the investment bank said. Many of those that emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic strong- er – such as the Arnault clan’s LVMH – will have benefited from in- vesting in their products and routes to market over many years. Superior returns are something the Wallenbergs of Sweden have understood for generations. Their dynasty is one of the most power-


ful business families in Europe. Through a holding company named Investor, the fifth generation of Wallenbergs manage an empire that includes significant stakes in many of the country’s biggest compa- nies, including appliance firm Electrolux and telecoms equipment maker Ericsson. Investor’s portfolio was valued at 485 billion Swed- ish krona (£41 billion) at the end of 2019. Jacob Wallenberg, chairman since 2005, is thoughtful about how the family acts today and conscious of how the levers of influence have changed over the years. ‘When my grandfather walked into a boardroom, regardless whether he owned a single share or not, he would command the day,’ he said in one interview. ‘His power was


If you lose the


money, you will still be my son, but you will not be fit for this business


ILLUSTRATION: BOB VENABLES


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