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Top of the family tree

Now in its third year, the CampdenFB Top 50 Family Business Leaders represents the most authoritative list of the world’s greatest leaders of family-controlled firms.

For the most part, family businesses like discretion. When asked who in the family is the inspiration behind the business, some might offer the name of the founder, others the current family principal, but most will be reluctant to name anyone in particular. That, say most family businesses, is how they like it – operating discreetly and not singling out anyone for notoriety.

But, of course, the success of family businesses is often about the inspiration, application and sheer bloody-mindedness to make it of one individual. So with the risk of provoking the ire of some of our readership, CampdenFB is naming 50 of the world’s top family business leaders.

Now in its third year, CampdenFB’s Top 50 Family Business Leaders, with the support of EY, represents the most authoritative list of the world’s greatest leaders of family-controlled firms. Judged by a team of professors from leading business schools and CampdenFB editorial staff, the list this year gives specific reasons why they have been included. The four factors used to evaluate the business leaders were: growth of the business; succession planning; corporate governance; and entrepreneurship. Many of those included showed achievement in all four of these categories, but might have particularly excelled in one or two.

This year we have also introduced a new category – “the ones to watch”. These are individuals that have already shown exceptional talent, possibly in another career, but have only recently risen to the top of their family business, and are now in a position to make a difference, like Alessandro Benetton and Axel Dumas.

Some are heads of multi-million-euro companies like Tim Cooper, from the Australian brewery named after his family, and Hans Georg Näder, who heads up German prosthetics maker Ottobock. Others are leading some of the world’s biggest businesses, like Bill Ford at the helm of the eponymous carmaker, and Nick Hayek, who runs the Swatch Group, the world’s biggest watchmaker.

The growing role of women in family businesses has also been reflected in this year’s list – one-fifth of the top leaders were women, up two from last year and five from the first edition of the survey.

Altogether 18 names from last year’s list appear again. They include perennials like Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, whose management continues to excel at Sonepar, and Adi Godrej, who is not only leading one of India’s most successful family businesses, but is also fostering better economic relations with India’s old adversary Pakistan.

Of course, compiling a list of the top family business leaders every year might be construed as going against the long-term business ethos that many family businesses are about. After all, appearing on this list or not will have little bearing on the success of a family business. And, unlike their counterparts in non-family listed businesses – which are unlikely to be headed for much longer than seven years – most family business leaders are in place for the long term.

Nevertheless, these 50 names should be held up as role models, inspiring the next generation and indeed non-family business leaders in the pursuit of stewardship of their companies. For that reason alone, the list will hopefully inspire next-gens and beyond.


CampdenFB drew up a long list of more than 200 family business leaders across the globe on the basis of these criteria:

  • The candidate showed adherence to exceptional corporate governance and succession planning
  •  The candidate showed outstanding entrepreneurial talent in the context of the family business
  • The candidate has been crucial to the successful running of the business in the last five years and helped to underpin its revenue growth and profitability

The family business also had to meet certain criteria:

  • The family controls at least 25% of the company’s decision-making rights
  • The share capital controlled by the family is at least in its second generation
  •  The company had revenues of at least €100 million


The Panel

David Bain
Editorial director, Campden Wealth

Kavil Ramachandran
Professor of family business and wealth management, Indian School of Business

Joachim Schwass
Professor of family business/director of the programme leading the family business, IMD


Would you like to nominate someone, or indeed yourself, for the 2014 Top 50?

If you think there are other outstanding family business leaders that merit inclusion in this then please contact Giulia Cambieri

* Fiscal year revenues are marked with an asterix

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