VU Center for Enterprise Family Research

Enterprise families share ownership of multiple assets and multiple entities across multiple generations. Enterprise families face specific challenges in sharing ownership in business, investments, property, philanthropic endeavors and often a family office. Some of the main concerns that enterprise families have are: Do we have a good family member successor lined up? Who is going to lead? How do we involve the passive family owner group? Should we split up our wealth? How do we untangle financial and non-financial family considerations? Do we aim for short-term profit or long-term impact? Answering these questions cannot be delegated to advisors outside the family because including family members in the decision making process enhances trust and meaning, and thus commitment to collective family action.

In effect, enterprise families have a major impact on our society: They contribute significantly to global economic growth, employment, philanthropic capital, start-up finance, technological innovation, and even to the performance of capital markets. However, according to research by Williams and Preisser (2003), there is a 70% failure rate among enterprise families in continuing the enterprise beyond the next generation, regardless of country, tax laws, or economic cycle. Two main reasons for this are that, in many cases, family dynamics negate sound decision making together and crumble internal relationships. Notwithstanding, some multigenerational enterprise families, like the Rockefeller family now in its seventh generation, show that successful family governance and strong social capital are achievable across several generations.

The public debate on wealth generation and the economic importance of enterprise families is deeply polarized. Therefore, it seems counterintuitive that in the field of family business research, where the family is the crucial variable theoretically distinguishing family businesses from other firms, the academic literature has so far paid less attention to the family itself as a unit of analysis and has focused overwhelmingly on the business system.

The VU Center for Enterprise Family Research (CEFR) studies enterprises at the family level and aims to be a platform of expertise on how to best prepare the rising generation (siblings or cousins who inherit family assets) to be responsible enterprise owners and figure out for themselves which role they want to play in the oversight and management of the enterprise family. As a research platform, the Center offers opportunities for research and executive collaboration between scholars and practitioners.

We explore the root causes on why many enterprise families fail to be prosperous for multiple generations and provide advice and insights in what it takes to ensure continuation of family enterprises. CEFR will develop the curriculum to support emergent and established enterprise family leaders and their rising generation family members to master the skills to maneuver the challenges of transgenerational enterprise families. We bring stimulating learning, pragmatic skills development, open and accessible faculty and excellent networking opportunities to the hospitable VU Amsterdam campus.

The CEFR research and executive learning program are designed to benefit siblings, cousins and advisors of enterprise families that lead and/or manage the family business, the family office, the family foundation or the family investments. The CEFR program participants will gain confidence, knowledge and expertise; explore different approaches to common enterprise challenges and learn how to choose the solution that best fits the enterprise family; and develop skills that prepare for future roles in the family enterprise and understand the roles and responsibilities of owners, the council, the board and the family office.

The VU Center for Enterprise Family Research is led by experienced researchers and practitioners in the field. Scientific director dr. Maarten B.T. de Groot and associate director dr. Lotte Glaser both have considerable experience working with enterprise families and family offices, as well as with qualitative and quantitative analysis.

For information, please contact Maarten de Groot (


Groot, Maarten de
Scientific director dr. Maarten de Groot
Dr. Maarten B.T. de Groot is Visiting Professor at VU Amsterdam School of Business and Economics, Chair of single-family office Eligius, and board member at Family Office Exchange. His main research interests are family governance and social capital, including the role of the family office and the complexities of non-financial considerations of wealthy enterprise families. He pursues this line of inquiry through qualitative and quantitative empirical studies. His 25 years professional experience as strategist and board member in the family office and wealth management sector enable him to counsel his global network of multigenerational enterprise families.
Glaser, Lotte
Associate director dr. Lotte Glaser
Lotte Glaser works as Associate Professor at the School of Business and Economics of VU University. Inspired to build a bridge between the academic and business world she combines this role with a unique corporate position where she advises the next generation of family business leaders at Cofra Holding. Her unique position in practice feeds her research in great ways as a source of highly relevant research questions, rich insights, and ideas. As a result, she is able to make highly relevant contributions both in her publications and in the classroom. Her work is published in top tier journals including Academy of Management Journal, Strategic Management Journal, and the Harvard Business Review.

Preserving family wealth is relational rather than financial

Many wealthy families are transgenerationally oriented. Maarten de Groot - scientific director of the VU Center for Enterprise Family Research - investigated how these families can preserve their wealth for several generations - not by analyzing the family business, but by analyzing the family itself. He was in contact with more than a thousand wealthy families worldwide. De Groot concludes that maintaining prosperity is enhanced by effective governance and strong social capital, and that wealth preservation is therefore not about money.

Wealthy families have a great impact on our society. They contribute significantly to global economic growth, employment, philanthropic capital, seed funding, technological innovation and even capital market performance. In addition, families with a transgenerational orientation are likely to contribute even more to society and the economy. Given the public debate and the importance of such families to the economy, it is strange that in the field of family business research, where the family is the critical variable that theoretically distinguishes family businesses from other businesses, the literature has so far neglected the family itself.

Wealthy families are heavily criticized and are often at the center of discussion. Public opinion has become strongly polarized in recent years. De Groot's research found that wealthy families derive most of their wealth from active ownership of family businesses and differ from the stereotype rich and famous.

While some multi-generational families have been successful in wealth preservation, most others have been much less successful. The findings from De Groot's research are based on interviews, surveys, observations and contextual data from corporate families, many of which are over 100 years old - families with more than 300 members and assets worth billions of dollars. The oldest family business dates back to the early 18th century and the largest comprises twelve family branches and has more than 1,000 members.

You can read the interview in de Volkskrant here.

Maarten de Groot on national radio and in de Telegraaf

Maarten de Groot has been interviewed at NPO1 in the programme Nieuwsweekend. The topic: very few enterprising families manage to successfully transfer wealth and responsibilities to the next generation. Why do some families actually succeed?

The interview (10 min. in Dutch) can be seen here.

Furthermore Maarten de Groot has been interviewed in de Telegraaf  in the issue of 24 March. The artricle can be read here.