Bonnier Group: Sweden's Leading Family Owned Business

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Case Details:

Case Code: BSTR238
Case Length: 17 Pages
Period: 1990-2006
Organization: Bonnier AB
Pub Date: 2006
Teaching Note :Not Available
Countries: Sweden
Themes: Family-Owned Business | Corporate Governance
Industry: Media, Entertainment, and Gaming

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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The Governance Practices

From the 1940s till the 1970s, Albert Jr. presided over the holding company which controlled the family's ownership interests in the Bonnier Group. Albert Jr. led the group and made all the important decisions regarding the activities of the company, including acquisitions and expansion. He even chose the people for the key positions in the Group.

On the other hand, Gerard was the largest owner, holding the maximum shares in the Group. He was responsible for the publishing business and for maintaining the art collection of the family. Under the sixth generation, however, the governance practices and governance structure of the Bonnier Group went in for a major overhaul. With the sixth generation, for the first time, female descendants were entitled to employment in the Group and Bonnier Group inducted non-family members on the board of directors. According to Carl-Johan, "The first thing I did when I became CEO was to change the board of directors from 100 percent family to a majority of external professionals because it was important to get some internal integrity." As of 2006, there were 12 directors, of whom only four were from the Bonnier family...

The Road Ahead

According to industry experts, in a scenario where 90% of the family businesses split up by the time the fourth generation took over the reins, the Bonnier Group's corporate journey till the sixth generation was highly commendable. They were of the opinion that transition to the next generation would be smooth as governance procedures had been formalized and the family was bound by the 30-year agreement. The analysts said that after so many decades of operation there was no sign of dissent visible within the family. Factors such as the fundamental values of the family, responsibility, quality, and freedom of speech, which had guided it through 200 years, could guide it for generations to come. Some analysts, however, were of the view that the survival of the Bonnier family as a single entity might not be possible for too long...


Exhibit I: Family Business as a Heirloom
Exhibit II: Bonnier Group - Family Tree
Exhibit III: Bonnier Group - Important Events(1804-1989)
Exhibit IV: Bonnier Group - Business Divisions
Exhibit V: Organization Structure of the Bonnier Group
Exhibit VI: Bonnier Group - Net Sales and Operating Profits
Exhibit VII: Bonnier Family - Governance Structure
Exhibit VIII: Largest Family-Owned Businesses in Europe

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