More than 70% of businesses in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg are family owned. Together, they account for some 50% of the Gross National Product in these countries. Many family businesses have grown into major companies that are successful both in and outside their own countries.
Only a small percentage of family businesses have an advisory board. Yet a family business not only has to consider the interests of the owners, the company and the stakeholders, but it must also take note of the interests of the family and mutual relationships. Often, those relationships permeate all aspects of the business. A unique situation that requires a specific approach when providing advice, and a special corporate governance code of behaviour.
Corporate governance for family businesses
In Belgium, the charter for family businesses is covered under chapter 9 of the Corporate Governance Code for non-listed companies, which comprises a series of recommendations. There is no such code in the Netherlands or Luxembourg, neither is there any compulsory or unique model for the corporate governance of family companies.
In NautaDutilh’s experience, the most satisfactory and effective way to direct a family company is by means of a structure, set up by the family itself, in which all family members or branches of the family are represented as equally as possible. NautaDutilh has a special Family Businesses team that assists so-called family offices. We provide advice on the structuring and organisation of family-owned companies and related issues.
About one-fourth of family-owned companies in Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg expect a transfer of leadership or property to happen within the next five years. It takes in-depth knowledge and an understanding of the world of family businesses, as well as an acquaintance with the family and the company, to bring a family business succession to a successful conclusion. Control, profit-sharing, continuation of the business operations and mutual family relationships are factors that must be kept firmly in sight. NautaDutilh has that experience. We have advised and assisted various family companies, midsized and large, in successfully passing on the business to the next generation.
The areas of law that apply to family businesses are:
- Corporate law
- Matrimonial property law and inheritance law
- Estate planning
- Real estate law
- Antillean law
- Employment law and pension law