Date:

Degree: Doctoral Thesis

Course: Business Administration

Authors: Jenny Oliveros Lao Phillips

Supervisors: Doctor José Alves, University of Saint Joseph


This dissertation reports on a study which aims to add to the theoretical understanding of how social capital is transferred from one generation to the next in business families. Studies in the field of family business have emphasized the importance of succession for the survival of family businesses, but while the succession process and planning have been widely studied, the examination of social capital succession is scarce. As for the studies in family business’s social capital, the importance of social capital as a source of competitive advantage which already exists in business families have often been expressed, but there is a lack of research in the means of transferring this form of capital from the family business leaders to their successors. The study presented here addresses this gap in family business succession literature and social capital literature, explaining the means of transgenerational succession of social capital in family businesses. This is a qualitative research using the multiple case study method which aims to investigate the means of social capital transmission by comparing the cases of five different Chinese family businesses in Macau, which are in the succession process, with the successor currently managing the firm while the former generation business leaders are in the process of handing over the business and preparing for retirement. In doing so, this research offers a theoretical framework of explaining how social capital is transmitted from the incumbents to the successors throughout a five-stage succession process developed for this research. The forms of social capital that exists in family businesses are identified from previous literature, in order to clearly explain how these different forms of social capital are passed on from generation to generation based on the review on succession process introduced in published literature. A theoretical framework is formed from the two parent theories on family business succession and social capital, and is then verified empirically from five Chinese family businesses in Macau. The cases are developed through in-depth interviews with the incumbents and successors of the family businesses, informal interviews with stakeholders (including family members, business associates, non-family employees and customers), direct observation on the premises of the Chinese family businesses and secondary data, in order to study the process of intergenerational transmission of social capital in these Chinese family businesses.