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The succession dilemma in family firms: case study of a French company

Olivier Meier (Department of Strategy, Universite Paris-Est, Marne-la-Vallee, France)
Anne-Sophie Thelisson (Department of Strategy, ESDES, Lyon, France, and at the Department of Strategy Université catholique de Lyon, Lyon, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Article publication date: 17 September 2020

Issue publication date: 1 December 2021




The purpose of this paper is to highlight the major difficulties and challenges encountered during the crucial process of family succession. In this study, the authors list and analyze issues encountered by managers or by the CEO of a family business.


Using a single longitudinal real-time case study conducted over a period of 10 years in a French family business, this study identifies the challenges encountered during family succession. The authors were allowed to follow, over a long period, the planning of the CEO’s succession.


The authors identified six critical points in the succession process: planning succession development; favoring creation of financial value for the shareholders; investment policy, risk taking and time horizon of investments (growth); family employment policy (family private benefit); opening of capital and debt policy (external financing); and financing of capital reduction policy (external financing).


The paper highlights the difficulties, issues and questions encountered by an SME manager or by the CEO of a family business. The analysis gives insights into the deep nature of the family structure, by involving the notions of culture and organizations serving the performance of family businesses.



Meier, O. and Thelisson, A.-S. (2021), "The succession dilemma in family firms: case study of a French company", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 42 No. 6, pp. 406-411.



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