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Family businesses in Spain

Leopoldo Rodés is originally from Barcelona, a law graduate and Honorary President and founder of the IEF. He is currently President of the Media Planning publicity group, and is a member of the Executive Committee of the French multinational Havas. He is also a patron of cultural events and President of the MACBA Foundation.

Leopoldo Rodés, Honorary President and founder of the IEF, talks about the current state of affairs surrounding Spain's rich culture of family business

What is the state of health of the family business in Spain today?

Leopoldo Rodés (LR): Spanish family concerns have been able to respond in a really exemplary way to the competitive challenge imposed by our country joining the European Union. On the whole, they are also enjoying a high level of solvency, and are managed with a serious approach, with care, and with imagination. Their size, initially medium, is increasing steadily, regardless of whether they have an international presence. Management members are chosen and their areas of responsibility are assigned in line with clearly planned objectives.

How do you see the present framework for the family business in Spain?

LR: The present framework is the result of some important advances, in the fiscal area in particular, which have come about thanks to the fact that the government of the democracy has understood the importance of this collective body. There is a need, however, for a legal standard to be introduced that will allow those institutions to survive and flourish – they are the major contributors to prosperity in Spain, as well as assisting in job creation.

With regard to the economic and social framework, Spain has undergone some important changes during this period, involving a vigorous opening up of the markets, both internally and externally, the steady consolidation of a culture of macro-economic stability, a growing internationalism of its companies, and a reawakening of the entrepreneurial spirit, to name just some of the considerations. 

The consolidation of the market economy and its stability not only from the economic point of view but also from the social and cultural aspects, calls for the preservation and strengthening of Spain's family concerns.

How do you feel about the steps that the Spanish government is taking to improve the situation of family

: The Spanish government is setting up a legal framework specifically for family businesses by way of a mixed commission consisting of the Ministers of the Economy and of Justice. This initiative, which is coming into being armed with the power of the Senate, is coming to some very fundamental conclusions about the situation of the Spanish family business. 

There is a need for some specific problems to be solved, such as the rights of the partners who do not form part of the family nucleus that actually owns the company, the precise delimitation of the actual concept of the family company, the presence in the capital holding of two or more families, the legal forms that family companies adopt, and so on. But the most relevant point is to assume that the family business is a commercial institution "sui generis", unique of its kind, and needs to be taken seriously.

How are things going with the Instituto de la Empresa Familiar (IEF) and its development?

LR: The development of the IEF in the past decade has allowed for the consolidation of a fiscal framework to be established for the family business, which is one of the most advanced in Europe. The problems involved with this are being tackled by a number of different bodies, especially at the leading Spanish universities, by way of professorships and faculties specialising in the family company. 

This has contributed in particular to establishing a much fairer image of the entrepreneurs in this sector, and they are at last being recognised as the principal creators of wealth and employment. I believe that in the next 10 years the consolidation of all these aspects is going to prove vital.

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