Coronavirus - we're here to help
From how to access your account online, scam awareness, your wellbeing and our community we're here to help.

Skip to main content
  • Register
  • Help
  • Contact us
  • Log in to HL Account
  • A A A
  • Why family-owned companies tend to outperform

    Buying shares in family-owned businesses can be one of the most reliable investment strategies. Steve Clayton and Charlie Huggins discuss how investors could benefit.

    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

    Are the management of the businesses you invest in correctly incentivised to run it effectively? If their remuneration effectively offers rewards for failure, that doesn’t bode well. If their pay package is overly linked to short-term results that can be just as damaging in the long run.

    Ideally the interests of managers and investors should be aligned and focused upon creating durable, long-term value for all the owners of the company. Managers who expect to retire, or get lured away by head-hunters can lack commitment. But when their personal wealth is tied up in the business, their interests and those of outside investors are more likely to align.

    There are fund managers out there who have given their funds an edge by insisting on only investing in stocks where management are significant owners of the companies they run. Anthony Cross and Julian Fosh, managers of the Liontrust Special Situations Fund, for example, will only invest in smaller firms if management own at least 3% of the company. Some invest mainly in family-controlled companies; an example being Richard Pease, manager of the FP CRUX European Special Situations Fund. When management have serious skin in the game, the argument goes, they will be more committed, in every aspect of how they run their business.

    Expenses will be more tightly controlled, and a manager whose own wealth, and perhaps their wider families’ wealth, depends on the success of the business for generations to come, is unlikely to be distracted by short-term targets at the expense of the bigger prize. Crucially, risk taking will be more measured. Rich people do not like the idea of waking up poor.

    Do the results bear out?

    We’ve analysed the performance of all the constituents in the FTSE All Share index and the AIM All Share index and compared the performance of companies where insiders own 5% or more of the shares, against those where insider ownership is less than that. It did not matter whether we looked at small, medium or larger companies; over the longer term, companies with high levels of insider ownership tended to outperform by a big margin.

    Insider ownership versus total return for FTSE All Share Index

    chart of performance

    Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

    Source: Bloomberg, 9 October 2015

    In the case of the AIM companies, the difference was especially striking. Over ten years, AIM companies with 5% or greater insider ownership delivered average total returns of over 200%, whilst the rest of the AIM market delivered a small negative outcome.

    Insider ownership versus total return for FTSE AIM Index

    chart of performance

    Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

    Source: Bloomberg, 9 October 2015

    How could investors benefit?

    As always with investing, there are no guarantees. One of the more notorious failures was Robert Maxwell and his ill-fated Mirror Group and there are numerous less dramatic examples. But if the people running the companies you invest in are really focused on making the business succeed, year in, year out, that has to be a good starting point.

    We’ve put together a list below of companies with significant family influence, where we can see a strong track record and promising future prospects. Some are FTSE 100 members, others are drawn from the mid cap universes and AIM.

    NameIndexTotal returnInsider holdingComment
    3-years5-years10-years
    easyJetFTSE 100202%322%541%34%Founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou remains the largest holder by far. easyJet has outperformed the European airline industry for two decades.
    Berkeley GroupFTSE 100175%379%523%7%London-focused property developer specialising in complex, high margin projects.
    Hikma PharmaceuticalsFTSE 100206%221%N/A29%Generic pharmaceutical manufacturer with a strong foothold across the US, Middle East and North Africa.
     FTSE 10023%35%72%  
    A.G.BarrFTSE 25023%47%336%13%UK's leading independent soft drinks business, responsible for IRN-BRU, Rubicon and Tizer. The Barr Family have steered the company since it was created in 1875.
    DunelmFTSE 25069%182%N/A55%UK’s largest homewares retailer founded in 1979 by Bill and Jean Adderley. Opportunity to grow through store roll-outs and expanding online sales.
    SuperGroupFTSE 250109%21%N/A44%The Superdry brand has shown it can travel well. Co-founders Julian Dunkerton & James Holder concentrate on branding and design.
    Ted BakerFTSE 250254%440%815%36%Continues to go from strength to strength under CEO and founder, Ray Kelvin. Plenty of scope to grow through new store openings. One of our five shares to watch for 2015.
    TalkTalk TelecomFTSE 25093%177%N/A31%Spun out from Carphone Warehouse (CW) in 2010, Sir Charles Dunstone (CW founder and Talk Talk Chairman) owns 31%. Opportunity to grow margins through simplifying the business.
     FTSE 25059%89%207%  
    Young & Co's BreweryFTSE AIM85%152%194%16%Pub group, focused on London and the South East. Solid balance sheet, packed with freehold London pub assets.
    NicholsFTSE AIM88%255%852%5%Chairman, John Nichols is the grandson of the original founder. Vimto is an international success story, especially in the Middle East.
     FTSE AIM8%-4%-22%  

    Past performance is not a guide to future returns.

    Source: Bloomberg and Lipper IM, 9 October 2015

    Important notes

    This article isn’t personal advice. If you’re not sure whether an investment is right for you please seek advice. If you choose to invest the value of your investment will rise and fall, so you could get back less than you put in.

    Editor's choice – our weekly email

    Sign up to receive the week's top investment stories from Hargreaves Lansdown. Including:

    • Latest comment on economies and markets
    • Expert investment research
    • Financial planning tips
    Sign up

    Related articles

    Category: Shares

    Investing in healthcare in a post-Covid world

    The healthcare industry's on the front line of the coronavirus response, but Nicholas Hyett looks at some longer-term investment options in the sector

    Nicholas Hyett

    13 Aug 2020 7 min read

    Category: Shares

    Pints and profits? How brewers have fared in lockdown

    Continuing our life-after-lockdown series, Equity analyst Sophie Lund-Yates looks at how the pandemic has impacted the makers of our favourite alcoholic drinks.

    Sophie Lund-Yates

    12 Aug 2020 7 min read

    Category: Markets

    Coronavirus – counting the cost to the UK economy

    Investment Analyst Joseph Hill looks at the cost of the coronavirus on the government’s finances and their options for balancing the books in the years ahead.

    Joseph Hill

    12 Aug 2020 min read

    Category: Shares

    Next week on the stock market

    What to expect from a selection of FTSE 100, FTSE 250 and selected overseas shares reporting next week.

    Emilie Stevens

    07 Aug 2020 5 min read