Family Capital’s 100 Influencers – Academics

Part One of the 100 Influencers –

The Top Academics in the world of family enterprises as nominated by Family Capital’s readers.

In Alphabetical  Order

Morten Bennedsen 

The André and Rosalie Hoffmann Chaired Professor of Family Enterprise at INSEAD; Academic Director of the Wendel International Centre for Family Enterprise, France

INSEAD’s strong tradition in the family business sector was reinforced when they appointed Morten Bennedsen more than 12 years ago. The Danish national’s emphasis on the importance of strong governance at family businesses and managing the succession process are prominent themes in his teaching and writing on the sector. He has advised governments and various institutions on family firms, emphasising how they are central to a thriving economy. 

One of those nominating Bennedsen said: “I think he’s one of most engaging of all the academics in the field…”

Marc-Michael Bergfeld 

Professor in Global Family Firms at Munich Business School; founder of Courage Partners, Germany

Before the Covid pandemic, Marc-Michael Bergfeld was often found on a jet airliner flying to engagements across the world, whether in his role as an academic or as a consultant for Courage Partners, the successful consultancy business he set up in 2007. For the time being, Zoom calls might have replaced the jet airliner, but Bergfeld presence is as international as ever. And although heralding from Europe’s family business powerhouse, Germany, Bergfeld isn’t scared to criticise the sector, believing many of the country’s esteemed family-owned Mittelstand companies face existential challenges and need to adapt fast to survive. 

One nominator said: “Bergfeld fuses the theoretical background and knowledge with the practical, hands-on experience to create something that all family business entrepreneurs can associate to, work with, develop from and build upon.”

Guido Corbetta 

Professor of Strategic Management and AIdAF – EY Professor of Strategic Management  in Family Business, Bocconi University, Italy

Corbetta remains at the apex of the family enterprise sector in Italy from an academic perspective, which is no mean achievement given the country has one of the most prevalent family business sectors in Europe. That’s helped no doubt because Corbetta sits on the board of numerous family businesses in Italy, including De Agostini and Frescobaldi, which gives him many practical insights into the sector.  

Corbetta also champions the world of family businesses in Europe through an annual survey of the sector in Italy – The AUB Observatory, which focuses on Italian family-owned companies in the country with turnover higher than €20 million. 

Accolades for Corbetta in this year’s nominations included: “He remains one of the top professors in the world of family enterprises, and is one the most connected to the sector through his many professional relationships with family businesses.”

Justin Craig

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Bond University, Australia

Australia’s top family business academic, Craig also has a worldwide reputation as one of the most experienced experts in his profession. He’s learnt from the best, having worked with two of the greats in the sector – John Ward and Ken Moores. He has also headed up various family enterprise centres in Australia and the US, and has worked closely with family business leaders worldwide. 

One nominator said: Craig has “worked with greats and is now one of the greats himself”. 

John Davis

Senior Lecturer in the Family Enterprise Executive Programs at the MIT Sloan School of Management; founder and chairman of Cambridge Family Enterprise Group, USA

One of the outstanding gurus of the family enterprise world, Davis’s long and distinguished career in the academic world is acknowledged by his peers worldwide. Now ploughing his trade at MIT, where he leads the family enterprise programs at the Sloan School of Management, Davis for 21 years did the same before at Harvard Business School. He started the university’s family business management studies program and perfected his now-famous “Three Circles Model of Family Businesses”. 

In the meantime, Davis founded one of the first academic/business consultancies in the family enterprise world, the Cambridge Family Enterprise Group, which he launched more than 30 years ago.  

One of the nominators said about Davis: “he is one of the greats in his field who all of the next generation of family enterprise academics more than acknowledge.”

Alfredo De Massis

Professor of Entrepreneurship & Family Business; Director of the Centre for Family Business Management at the Free University of Bolzano, Italy; and Wild Chair in Family Business at IMD in Switzerland. He also co-directs family business research projects at Lancaster University Management School, UK.

De Massis has gained an increasing reputation as one of the new family enterprise academics of note. His thinking and expertise in the sector are more in demand than ever, and he is one of the most published academics on his subject. De Massis is a great believer in how the traditions of a successful family enterprise can be harnessed in its quest for innovation. 

One who nominated De Massis said: “his thought leadership has influenced the shaping of the field. He has been rigorously acknowledged as being among the top in his sector.”

Gonzalo Jiménez-Seminario

Professor of UDD-AEF and Chair Jaime Said Demaria of Family Businesses and Director of the Corporate Governance & Business Families Center of the University for Development of Chile

Latin America’s vibrant family enterprise sector is no better served in knowledge and expertise than by Gonzalo Jiménez-Seminario. Jiménez-Seminario brings his insights from the world of academia and through his representation on many of the boards of the continent’s family businesses. In addition, through the consultancy business Proteus Management that he set up more than 20 years ago, Jiménez-Seminario has also advised many of the region’s family businesses on governance and strategic matters.

One accolade from a nominator said: Jiménez-Seminario is considered in Latin America as a “global scholar” and has brought huge “ɡravɪtas” to the family business academia world. 

Nadine Kammerlander

Professor of Family Business, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany

Since Kammerlander was appointed full professor of family business at the Otto Beisheim School of Management, her reputation has grown considerably. She is now regarded as part of the “new wave” of top professors in family business academics in Europe. Like her compatriots, Marc-Michael Bergfeld and Tom Rüsen, Kammerlander is often critical of the German family businesses, believing the sector needs to innovate much more to meet the challenge of digital transformation head-on. 

One of those nominating Kammerlander said: “Students say she is great to work with and knows the sector exceptionally well.”

Mattias Nordqvist

Professor the Department of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Technology, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden

One of Sweden’s preeminent business academics, with a specialism in the family business sector, Mattias Nordqvist, moved to the prestigious Stockholm School of Economics in early 2020. He continues his focus on the sector, but also concentrates on entrepreneurship and innovation. Previously the director of the Center for Family Enterprise and Ownership at Jönköping International Business School, Nordqvist is among the most widely published academics on family business issues, particularly with reference to the Nordic region. 

One nominator said: “He sincerely believes in the need for academic discipline in the field of family businesses. He has been an innovator and thought leader in new constructs – most notably trans-generational entrepreneurship.”

Jennifer Pendergast

John L. Ward Clinical Professor in Family Enterprise and Executive Director of the John L. Ward Center for Family Enterprises, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, USA

Pendergast carries real heft in the family business academic world, having risen to the heights of arguably the business school that has done most to understand the sector for the longest time, the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Pendergast has combined her business school expertise with outside experience. Previously she was the leader of Egon Zehnder’s Family Business Advisory in the US. She has also worked for the family office of one of America’s wealthiest families. 

One of those nominating Pendergast said few better individuals could step into the position at Kellogg given the extraordinary legacy left there by John Ward.  

Kavil Ramachandran

Professor of Entrepreneurship (Practice); Senior Advisor, Thomas Schmidheiny Centre for Family Enterprise; Senior Fellow, Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Indian School of Business, India

The guru in the theory and practices of family enterprises in India, Ramachandran, is well deserved for his many allocates. He has been teaching, researching, and presenting on India’s hugely important family business sector for more than 25 years and has built up a formidable reputation during that period both at home and abroad. 

Those nominating him said: “the top academic in the family business sector in India”. 

Tom Rüsen

Professor at Witten/Herdecke University and managing director of the Witten Institute for Family Business (WIFU) foundation, Germany 

Rüsen is among a group of outstanding academics at business schools in Germany who are at the forefront of family business research and advice in Europe’s biggest economy. But, like his two compatriots – Nadine Kammerlander and Marc-Michael Bergfeld – he hasn’t held back on the challenges the family business sector faces in Germany, particularly with the next generation’s reluctance to embrace succession. Consequently, he works with many family businesses on better managing issues like succession planning.

One nominator said about Rüsen: “He understands the family business sector in Germany better than most” and sees “the challenges they face”, even if they don’t always do so themselves.

Pramodita ‘Dita’ Sharma

Professor, family business, Grossman School of Business, University of Vermont, USA

In recent years, Sharma has looked more into the sustainability of family businesses and what makes some last longer than others. Sharma has even considered the spirituality aspects that might have contributed to the longevity of a company. Beyond her significant academic work in the sector, Sharma has also introduced the highly popular Family Enterprise Research Conference. 

Comments on her nomination included: “She is a cornerstone of the discipline! And Sharma has had a profound impact on many university students, their understanding of family businesses and prepare them for their future professional career through the annual Family Enterprise Case Competition.”

Lauri Union

Nulsen Family Executive Director at the Institute for Family Entrepreneurship, Babson College, USA

Babson has a strong family business focus, and that strength continues with the dynamism of Lauri Union, who joined the faculty in 2018. Union moved to Babson after successfully reviving the fortunes of her family’s business, which gives her unprecedented first-hand experience of the sector few in the world of business academia have achieved. She also has updated Babson’s family business expertise with her focus on entrepreneurship within the sector. 

One of those nominating Union said she has “real-world depth and expertise” in the sector. 

Peter Vogel

Professor of Family Business and Entrepreneurship and holder of the Debiopharm Chair for Family Philanthropy at IMD Business School; Director of IMD Global Family Business Center, Switzerland

IMD has always placed the family enterprise world at the heart of its programs with its world-renowned Global Family Business Centre. Those efforts are now under the stewardship of Peter Vogel. He has more than established himself as a leader among the new group of outstanding family enterprise academics now at the forefront of their craft. In league with IMD’s highly entrepreneurial ethos, Vogel has combined his theoretical expertise with his real-world entrepreneurial skills – some years ago, he set up a venture fund –  to give unique insights into how family enterprises can better deal with disruptive forces they face today. 

Those who acknowledged Vogel were full of praise for the IMD professor, one saying: “Vogel brings a zeal to the family enterprise sector like few others; he’s one of the leading lights in his field.”

Thomas Zellweger

Professor of Business Administration with specialisation in Family Business at the University of St.Gallen, Switzerland 

Zellweger is among a group of European professors who have established themselves in the last 10 years as the voice of family enterprises at the region’s best business schools. Now well established at St Gallen, Zellweger has extensively published and spoken at various professional forums on how family businesses shape economies.

One nominator said Zellweger is a “heavyweight in his specialist” and has helped “raise the profile of family businesses across Switzerland and the rest of Europe”.


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