Recent research on family businesses has emphasized, in opposition to Chandler’s seminal Scale and scope, the long-term vitality of this type of firm. In the Netherlands Sluyterman, Davids and Arnoldus, among others, have documented this view. The case of the Kluwer publishing firm shows both the strengths and weaknesses of the family model. Kluwer made the transition to a managerial firm between the middle of the nineteen fifties and nineteen sixties, due to pressures which are familiar to scholars who have studied family firms: lack of capital and managerial capacity, a managerial ideology and government policy which disapproved of this type of business, and great incentives for families to sell out. Nevertheless, examples of continued family control, as in the cases of Bonnier and Bertelsmann, suggest that Kluwer could have pursued a different strategy, which might have projected family ownership and control into the present.

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Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication (ESHCC)