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The role of founder CEO and independent board in family firms' international growth: evidence from India and Italy (01a Articolo in rivista)

Kerai Anita, Marzano Riccardo, Piscitello Lucia, Singla Chitra

Purpose: This paper investigates the role of the founder CEO and board independence in shaping the way in which Indian and Italian family firms (FFs) pursue international growth via two modes, that is exports and FDI. This article claims that country's context matters in determining the relationship between the presence of the founder CEO and FFs' extent of exports and extent of FDI. Further, this article examines the moderating role of board independence on the above-mentioned founder CEO–FF's international growth relationship. Design/methodology/approach: Using a fixed-effect panel data method, this article tests the hypotheses on a sample of 1,275 Indian FF-year observations and 705 Italian FF-year observations over the period 2008–2015. Findings: This article reveals that the presence of a founder CEO is positively associated with the extent of exports but negatively associated with the extent of FDI in Italian firms. However, in case of Indian firms, the presence of the founder CEO is negatively associated with the extent of exports as well as with the extent of FDI. This founder CEO's influence on the firm's international growth is mitigated by the presence of an independent board in Italian firms; however, this moderation is not significant in the case of Indian firms. Research limitations/implications: It is important to capture heterogeneity within family firms and across institutional contexts while studying family firms' international growth. Further, it is important for international business scholars to theorize for different modes of international growth because challenges faced in expansion via exports are different from the challenges faced in expansion via FDI (foreign subsidiaries). Therefore, family firms leadership might prefer a certain mode of international growth. Practical implications: The findings of the study imply that national culture and institutional context could play an important role in determining (a) Founder CEO's inclination towards FF's extent of exports and FDI as well as (b) the effectiveness of an independent board in mitigating founder CEO's influence on FF's international growth. Originality/value: This work is one of the very few studies that examines the impact of FF's heterogeneity and country heterogeneity on two modes of international growth, namely exports and FDI, in the Indian and Italian contexts. Further, this work provides empirical evidence on the independent board's role in mitigating founder CEO's influence in decision making in the case of Italian firms. Extant literature expects an independent board to encourage FFs' international growth both via exports and FDI; this study shows that independent boards could reduce the founder CEO's inclination towards exports and mitigate founder CEO's influence on the decision making; however, this mitigation effect is highly context dependent.
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