Conflicts in Private Family Firms

Posted: 14 Oct 2020 Last revised: 27 Oct 2021

See all articles by Janis Berzins

Janis Berzins

BI Norwegian Business School

Alminas Zaldokas

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - Department of Finance

Date Written: October 13, 2020


We use Norwegian household-level data and full structures of family relationships to understand how family firm inheritance decisions are made when the family has multiple potential heirs. We argue that the decision on whether the family firm is bequeathed to one or a few heirs is related to the potential of future family conflicts. We rely on the observation that heir conflicts are more likely if the founder has experienced a divorce or a separation, and instrument the founder’s divorce with the frequency of divorces in the extended family relationships outside of the nuclear family, which makes the founder’s divorce more socially acceptable. Our findings suggest that anticipated heir disagreement shapes ownership distributions in the family firms but also defines how long the firms remain in the family’s hands, their investment, and growth.

Keywords: Family Firms, Corporate Governance, Ownership Structures, Divorce

JEL Classification: G32, G34

Suggested Citation

Berzins, Janis and Zaldokas, Alminas, Conflicts in Private Family Firms (October 13, 2020). Proceedings of Paris December 2020 Finance Meeting EUROFIDAI - ESSEC, Available at SSRN: or

Janis Berzins (Contact Author)

BI Norwegian Business School ( email )

Nydalsveien 37
Oslo, 0442

Alminas Zaldokas

Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (HKUST) - Department of Finance ( email )

Clear Water Bay, Kowloon
Hong Kong

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