Strategy Competition

Boards Under Crisis: Board Action under Pressure by Alberto Lavîn Fernández, Carmelo Mazza (auth.)

By Alberto Lavîn Fernández, Carmelo Mazza (auth.)

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Indd 42 3/21/2014 10:37:36 AM 43 Crisis in the Boardroom differences in behaviors, one mentioned by several interviewees is ownership structure. Companies with a block-holding participation seem to promote a different time focus—usually longer term oriented—of decision-making under crisis. The effect of ownership structure on strategy has been argued before in strategic management literature, albeit with conflicting results. Shareholder myopia might be behind executive shorttermism (Samuel, 2000; 2001) and a large ownership proportion tends to reduce pressures for sacrificing long-term growth for short-term profit.

Besides the block-holding participation degree, another factor affecting the intensity of short-termism is the stability of this participation. It has been suggested (Edmans, 2009; Bushee, 1998) that the orientation to protect the longer term against the short term will be particularly prominent when the participation is stable in time. Thus, those stockholders with a long tenure as stockholders and a dominant participation will not be so tempted to act in a short-termist way during crisis. indd 43 3/21/2014 10:37:36 AM 44 Boards Under Crisis In sum, the odds are that dominant and stable stockholders will be less prone to be short-sighted as a result of the crisis.

There is wide agreement that the opening episode for the current economic crisis (at least symbolically) was the default of Lehman Brothers on 15 September 2008 and, at the time we are writing this book (late 2013), crisis is still a key issue throughout Europe. One of our informants, with a long CEO and board member experience, describes the unique nature of the current crisis: ‘I have been in top positions for a few decades now; I have never seen such a deep crisis. It is affecting everything and everywhere.

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