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The 2008 financial and economic crisis and the family business sale intention: A study of a French SMEs sample

Gérard Hirigoyen (University of Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France)
Sami Basly (University of Paris Nanterre, Nanterre, France)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 5 November 2018

Issue publication date: 7 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to assessthe probable influence of some of the emotional costs and returns expected by owners on their family business sale decision; and examine if the perceived economic environment during the economic and financial crisis of 2008 had an impact on the intention to sell their family business.


The research is based on a sample of 69 family businesses responding to a postal questionnaire survey. The empirical study is made up of a descriptive analysis of the factors influencing the intention of a family business sale and an explanatory analysis of the sale intention.


The desire for family business renewal through family generational succession is the main emotional factor lying behind the decision to continue/sell the business. Furthermore, the financial and economic crisis does not seem to be a factor that accentuates the intention to sell the family business even if firms’ financial performance has declined.

Research limitations/implications

Future research could implement a direct measure of owners’ performance thresholds and explicitly integrate the moderating role of “Perceived economic environment.”

Practical implications

By showing that continuity is a key concern for family business owners, the research invites them to effectively prepare their succession instead of postponing this strategic process given its significance in guaranteeing the survivability of the family business.


Executives who perceived economic conditions as very poor are less likely to consider the sale of the business in the horizon of two years than executives perceiving them as “normal.” The study confirms that in family-owned businesses, for the owner-managers and the active and serene family shareholders, the sale price does not compensate for their emotional regret evaluated through the loss of the family business’ emotional value.



Hirigoyen, G. and Basly, S. (2019), "The 2008 financial and economic crisis and the family business sale intention: A study of a French SMEs sample", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. 26 No. 4, pp. 571-594.



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