Generational Socioemotional Wealth and Debt Maturity: Evidence from Private Family Firms of GIPSI Countries

  •  Oscar Domenichelli    
  •  Giulia Bettin    


In this paper we investigate the relationship between generational socioemotional wealth (SEW) and debt maturity structure in private family firms of GIPSI countries for the period 2010-2018. This appears to be quite an important issue to study, given that SEW is a peculiar aspect of family firms and its impact on the debt maturity structure, still relatively unexplored, is likely to change according to the generation running the family business. We show that the importance attached to SEW decreases when moving from the firms’ founder to the subsequent generations, with a negative effect on the amount of long-term debt. The forward-looking orientation of first-generation family firms favours long-term credit by banks in order to expand a healthy business which can be inherited by future generations. These businesses are hence perceived as less risky and more value-creating by external creditors, compared to later-generation family firms. Alternatively, SEW preservation is often less of a target in later-generation family firms, because some descendants consider the firm simply as a source of extra finance and conflicts of interest often arise between multiple generations or different family branches entering the business. Short-term debt may then be employed as a signaling effect of the quality of the firm. At the same time, borrowing long-term capital may become difficult if lenders question the creditworthiness of these businesses. This issue emerged dramatically during the sovereign debt crisis, when a significant contraction of credit to firms was observed throughout the GIPSI countries.

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