Family Business Series – 7 – Europe

Family Business Series - 7 - Europe

McDonald’s, circa 1749? Walmart, est. 1665? Not really, but not so unusual in Europe.

While American family-owned and operated businesses tend to be entrepreneurial, according to The Economist, European family businesses tend to be older, multi-generational, and extensive — parents, brothers, sisters, and cousins, looking to operate the business as an extended family-sustaining enterprise, to continue family financial support and ensure family employment for years to come, rather than maximize short-term profit.

The oldest European family-owned and operated business is a luxury jewelry firm, Mellerio dits Meller, currently located in Paris, with other locations in Spain, Luxembourg, and Japan. Founded in 1613, through Medici patronage, the firm has continued as a private company, owned by the Mellerio family, with a rich history of royal connections throughout Europe, and the original papers and archives to back up their claims. In 2013, the fourteenth generation Olivier and Francois Mellerio celebrated 400 years in the family business, according to Forbes. Issuing an anniversary collection of modern jewelry inspired by designs of the era of Queen Marie de Medici, the family has endured by keeping the business size moderate in conformity with its family members and maintaining the art in the craft of high jewelry design. []

Longevity does not necessarily mean primitive. Olivier Mellerio told Nuvo Magazine, upon launching the anniversary collection, that the company has to reinvent itself. “If you don’t reinvent, you disappear”. He also issued simple yet profound, advice: “To keep the ‘house’ independent and within the family is a choice…that each generation has to make. “Reinventing a revered family business means keeping the beauty and art of the jewelry in the Renaissance, but moving through the world of business with all modern technology has to offer. One such example is logistical streamlining, through route-planning software now in place around the world, a technology that has revolutionized the way goods are moved internally (through the complexities of the business) and externally (to the consumer). []

The family business has a stronghold in Europe. In Spain, 85 % of businesses are categorized as family-owned businesses, producing 70% of Spain’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product). For this reason, the 2014 European Family Business Awards will be handed out in Barcelona, on June 3.[] Shortlisted for the Top Family Business of the Year by a jury of business school experts and private wealth managers from a pool of 250 nominations are the following well-known brands:

  • Campari (Italy)(est. 1860)
  • Faiveley Transport (France)(est. 1919)
  • Mango (Spain)(est. 1984)
  • Pentland Group (UK)(est. 1932)
  • Villeroy and Boch (Germany) (est. 1748)



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