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Family-owned companies

2020 Belgium Spencer Stuart Board Index

2020 Snapshot

 42 %

of Bel 20 and Bel Mid companies are family-owned

 82 %

of directors in family-owned businesses are NEDs

 13 %

of chairs are independent in family-owned companies

 78 %

of CEOs at family-owned-companies are on the board

 40 %

more is paid to chairs by family-owned companies


In Belgium, family-owned companies continue to maintain a large presence across the Bel 20 and Bel Mid indices. We have again analysed the role of family-owned companies on the basis of a minimum 25% share capital holding. Across the two indices, we have identified 24 companies (42%) that are family-owned. Among Bel 20 companies the proportion is 45%, and among the Bel Mid it is 41%. A further 10 companies have a significant family shareholder, albeit below the 25% threshold.

Bel 20 family-owned companies
Family stake
Warehouses de Pauw 25%
Ackermans & van Haaren 33%
Anheuser-Busch InBev 33.84%
UCB 35%
Solvay 30.71%
Aperam 39.08%
Groupe Bruxelles Lambert 50%
Sofina 54.49%
Colruyt 54.10%
Bel Mid family-owned companies Family stake
Family stake
Recticel 28.17%
D’Ieteren 57.49%
VGP 58.48%
Kinepolis Group 48.21%
Melexis 53.58%
Bekaert 34.28%
Mithra Pharmaceuticals 44.63%
Compagnie du Bois Sauvage 50.21%
LeasInvest Real Estate 30.01%
Lotus Bakeries 55.81%
Econocom Group 41.80%
Immobel 58.94%
Tessenderlo Group 38.91%
CFE 60.91%
SIPEF 42.86%

Source: Euronext, companies’ websites and annual reports

When comparing boards of family-owned and non-family-owned companies in our sample, average board size has been consistently higher among family-owned companies. This year family-owned companies have an average board size of 10.3, compared with 9.1 for non-family-owned, in line with last year (10.4).

Family-owned boards met less frequently on average, with 8.1 scheduled board meetings, compared with 9.4 for non-family-owned company boards. As family members have significant shareholding interests, they often have representation on the board of directors. About 17% of directors in our sample are known to be shareholder family members or representatives for family shareholders. Among family-owned companies, this figure rises to 36% of directors; that is, 33% in Bel 20 boards and 38% in Bel Mid companies.

Within the board, family-owned companies have a lower percentage of independent non-executives (57%), compared with non-family-owned companies (62%). However, non-family-owned companies have a lower percentage of NEDs (73%), compared with family-owned companies, where NEDs account for 82% of directors.

Family-owned companies have a lower percentage of executive directors on their boards (10%) compared with non-family-owned companies (16%). Among family-owned-companies 78% of CEOs are on the board, slightly fewer than the 82% seen across non-family-owned companies. However, no CFO among our sample has a board seat at a family-owned business. Among non-family-owned companies, 18% of CFOs are board members.

Vice chairs have more presence (26%) on family-owned company boards, compared with non-family owned (21%). Among non-family-owned companies, chairs are more likely to be women (6%), compared with 4% on family-owned boards. At family-owned companies chairs are slightly more likely to be foreign (22%) than they are in non-family-owned (18%).

Independence among chairs continues to be one of the largest distinctions between family-owned companies and non-family-owned. In family-owned companies, chairs are independent in only 13% of instances, down from the 16% seen last year. At non-family-owned companies, the proportion is 53%. Across both groups, however, independence has grown since 2016, when 9% of family-owned chairs and 44% of non-family-owned chairs were independent.


Tenure continues to be a distinguishing factor between family-owned and non-family-owned company boards. Currently chairs have an average tenure of 13.7 years on family boards, compared with 8.9 years on non-family boards. Regular non-executive directors have a tenure of 8.4 years in family-owned companies and of 5.3 in non-family-owned. For executives, the average tenure is of 13.9 years on family boards, compared with eight years on non-family boards. CEOs follow the same trend, with 12.4 and 7.7 years of tenure, respectively.

Average tenure for family-owned and non-family-owned companies


Remuneration policies present an interesting distinction between the two types of companies. Across the various remuneration components, family-owned companies pay higher fees on average. Although among non-executive directors the difference remains moderately higher, the remuneration gap among chairs between family-owned and non-family-owned companies is substantial. The difference is €44 707 for the average total fees, €49 213 for the fixed retainer and €1 130 for the meeting fee.

Non-executive remuneration (€000)
Chair remuneration (€000)