N&Q: When family governance doesn’t appear to be working; PWC’s family business survey…


A family/manager dispute like no other – but it isn’t affecting profits

Disputes between management and family often get heated, but few end up as heated as that at Sika. The Swiss construction group has two sets of shareholders – the family and outsiders, with the latter backed by the company’s management – fighting to determine the future of the company. Here’re some insights from previous Family Capital coverage of the saga, here and here.

Anyway, the latest twist involves a Swiss court backing Sika’s management attempt to block the family shareholders selling the business to the huge French construction group, Saint-Gobain. The ruling is being appealed by the family in a higher court, with the backing of Saint-Gobain, so there’s plenty of mileage left before things are finally resolved. One of the outside shareholders is Bill and Melinda Gates’ family office, Cascade Investment, which makes the ongoing dispute even more compelling – at least to those not involved. 

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the dispute is that it hasn’t affected the performance of Sika, which recently reported a 23% rise to CH559 million in pre-tax profits for the first nine months of the year. Sometimes businesses prosper regardless of a fight for their control…

PWC reckons family businesses are “missing the middle”

In its latest family business survey, the professional services group PWC, says family businesses are good at the long view and dealing with the everyday nuts and bolts of running a business, but not so good at the middle. The middle, says PWC, is the bit that links where a business is now to its long-term vision of where it could be. Here’s a link to the report for those interested in following up in more detail.

Other findings include the usual stuff in these types of surveys expressed in percentage terms about things like succession planning – apparently, 43% of those businesses surveyed don’t have a plan. And innovation – apparently 64% of those surveyed think the most important challenge over the next five years will be the continuing need to innovate. There’s more in the report along these lines. The research spoke to more than 2,800 firms across the world to compile the findings, so it must have some credibility.