European Business Models: Searching for a New Identity?

Workshop on October 9, 2009 for a special issue of Business History edited by Andrea Colli (Bocconi University), Abe de Jong (Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University), and Martin Jes Iversen (Copenhagen Business School)

A revival in the interest in the “European business model” has generated in the 1990s two separate but complementary streams of research. The first is linked to the research in the “law and finance” area, trying to understand the determinants of the high dispersion of ownership among large firms in developed economies (see e.g. La Porta et al., 1999; Barca and Becht, 2003), which produced an huge amount of information about the ownership structures of large companies, both listed and privately held. Another stream of research concerned the dynamics in the world’s largest corporations and these studies in the area of management explicitly referred to the 1970s Harvard Research Project about strategies and structures of the 100 largest corporations in the main industrialized countries at that time (Whittington and Mayer, 2000). At the same time a renewed interest arose in corporate governance issues, explicitly dealing with the effects of ownership structures on value creation and distribution, which has added further evidence to the debate.

As a result of past research a reasonable amount of data and information is available circumscribed however only to the largest European countries (France, UK and Germany), with far much less coverage of the “peripheries”. The nature itself of the research was to investigate the relationship among strategy, structure, ownership and performance in a dynamic and comparative perspective. This has implied a tremendous effort of data collection, homogenization and analysis in a medium to long period and brought also business historians to become interested in this kind of research (Schroeter, ed., 2008). This debate has been particularly vivid given also its obvious links with other relevant streams of research, as those related to the “varieties of capitalism” debate and to the “national business systems” literature.

This special issue and workshop aims at collecting and discussing papers dealing with the issue of the evolution in strategies, organizational and ownership structures, and performances of European corporations in a dynamic and comparative perspective. Long‐term and country approaches and specific case studies are welcome, as well as research concentrating on smaller and peripheral European countries. Research based upon extensive datasets will be appreciated, together with studies with a prosopography‐oriented approach.