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Family-owned companies

2022 Belgium Spencer Stuart Board Index

2022 Snapshot

 44 %

of the companies under review are family-owned

 19 %

% of directors are family representatives

 47 %

of directors at family-owned companies are independent


In Belgium, family-owned companies continue to maintain a large presence across the Bel 20 and Bel Mid indices. We define a family-owned companies on the basis of a minimum 25% of share capital holding. Across the two indices, 25 companies are family-owned, representing 44% of the listed Belgium companies. 50% of the Bel 20 and 38% of the Bel Mid are family owned. [Note: Warehouse Du Pauw has a 23.3% family shareholding and so is excluded from these statistics.]

Bel 20 family-owned companies
Family stake
Ackermans & van Haaren 33%
Anheuser-Busch InBev 33.5%
Aperam 38.7%
Colruyt 58.1%
Groupe Bruxelles Lambert 35.9%
D'Ieteren 59.3%
Sofina 47.1%
Solvay 30.8%
UCB 35.1%
VGP 66.8%
Bel Mid family-owned companies Family stake
Family stake
Bekaert 36.2%
Brederode 55.7%
CFE 62.1%
Compagnie du Bois Sauvage 44.4%
Econocom Group 40.1%
Home Invest Belgium 26.7%
Immobel Group 59.0%
Kinepolis Group 46.41%
Lotus Bakeries 50.0%
Mithra Pharmaceuticals 50.93%
Recticel 27.5%
SIPEF 46.99%
Tessenderlo Group 61.03%
Titan Cement 53.0%
Melexis 50.0%

Generally, when comparing the 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 however, non-family-owned companies have the larger boards, at 10 members on average, compared with 9.5 at family-owned companies.

Family-owned boards met less frequently on average, with 8.4 scheduled board meetings, compared with 10.7 for non-family-owned company boards. As family members have significant shareholding interests, they often have representation on the board of directors. Based on our research, about 19% of the total number of directors are known to be shareholder family members or representatives of family shareholders. Among family-owned companies, this figure rises to 35% of directors: 34% in the Bel 20 and 36% in Bel Mid companies.

Within the board, family-owned companies have a lower percentage of independent directors (47%), compared with non-family-owned companies (50.2%).

Looking at the board composition of family-owned companies, they have a higher proportion of NEDs (75.7%) compared to non-family-owned companies (66%). Moreover, family-owned companies have fewer executive directors on their boards (11.6%) compared to non-family-owned listed companies (20%).

Among family-owned-companies, 68% of CEOs are board members, fewer than the 91% seen across non-family-owned companies. However, only one CFO among our sample has a board seat at a family-owned business. Among non-family-owned companies, 35.3% of CFOs have board seats.

At family-owned companies chairs are slightly more likely to be foreign (28%) than they are in non-family-owned companies (17.6%). Vice chairs have a greater presence (36%) on family-owned company boards, compared with non-family owned (30%).

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 16% of cases. At non-family-owned companies, the proportion is 50%. 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 is again a distinguishing factor between family-owned and non-family-owned company boards. Currently chairs have an average tenure of 5.8 years on family boards, compared with 4.1 years on non-family boards. Regular non-executive directors have a tenure of 7.4 years in family-owned companies and of 5.5 in non-family-owned. For executives, the average tenure is 12.1 years on family boards, compared with 7.3 years on non-family boards. CEOs follow the same trend, with 8.1 and 6.3 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 62% higher for the average total fees, 97% higher for the fixed retainer fees, and the meetings fee lower compared to non-family-owned, with a difference of 68% less.

Non-executive remuneration at family-owned and non-family-owned companies (€000)
Chair remuneration at family-owned and non-family-owned companies (€000)