Steen Thomsen © 2012

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Foundations which own business companies.


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Colums and blogs in Danish.










I am a Professor at Copenhagen Business School specializing in corporate governance which I define more broadly than most people. The topic is important because governance is what keeps business going. We need governance to provide incentives for wealth creation and accountability.





The central institution of modern capitalism is the business company. Without we would not be where we are today. We share a common responsibility to make it work.


Corporate governance is concerned with its guiding principles, not company management as such but with the conditions under which managers operate. We cannot tell managers what to do, ssice we have too little information. But we can try to set up a system which makes them create value for their shareholders and for society at large.


The classic definition of corporate governance is "the control and direction of companies" through ownership and shareholder control, boards and monitoring, incentive and bonus systems, company law and other kinds of regulation. We know that other mechanisms such as social norms, reputation, creditor pressure and market competition  are also important.  They all help keep managers on their toes. We need to find suitable combinations of these mechanisms to match the needs of individual companies.


There are many ways to go. The choices range from family business to bank capitalism, investor ownership, state control, pension fund governance and so one. Recently I have become very interested in "industrial foundations" - foundations which own companies.






In a new book with Martin Conyon, Corporate governance: Mechanisms and Systems, I try to provide an overview of the field.




Mechanisms such as ownership, boards, incentives and regulate work to provide companies with control and direction. Countries combine them to form systems.