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M&As in family firms: keeping trust in the equation

Stella C. Lind (KPMG, Frankfurt, Germany, Denmark)
Frank Lattuch (Münster University of Applied Sciences, Münster, Germany)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 17 April 2020

Issue publication date: 26 May 2021




Experience suggests that a loss of trust may occur on both sides of the merger and acquisition (M&A) equation – acquirer and acquiree – though the latter is more generally considered the most affected. The purpose of this paper is to explore how a loss of trust during the M&A process in family firms can be avoided. An acquisition potentially triggers a loss of trust in the workplace and, as a result, a loss of productivity thereby causing the merged business to totter. Moreover, trust in a firm’s owner tends to be a key driver in merging family firms.


The authors investigated an expanding German family firm that recently acquired other family firms. They conducted in-depth interviews on all hierarchical levels in both the acquiring and the acquired firm. These cases are taken from a wider study of acquiring family firms completed in 2019.


Value congruence, integrity and openness are found to enhance trust during M&As, in particular, if the new owner of a merged enterprise is also a family entrepreneur. Under certain circumstances, the trust of employees in the acquired firm’s previous owner can be transferred to the new owner.


This study explores how specific circumstances of family firms impacts organizational trust in M&A processes. The developed framework helps family firms to use characteristics of their specific nature as an asset to maintain their employees’ organizational trust before, during and even after M&As.



Lind, S.C. and Lattuch, F. (2021), "M&As in family firms: keeping trust in the equation", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 42 No. 3, pp. 188-195.



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