The start-ups that grew old

Japan’s family firms not to be underestimated

Japan is the home of the world’s oldest companies and boasts one of the highest concentrations of large family-run businesses on the planet. At the start of the 21st century, one third of all Japanese listed companies had some kind of family control and that remains the case today.

Japan’s tendency to corporate family ownership can be explained by its relatively recent industrialisation. First, an industrial and service infrastructure of family companies sprang up alongside and became symbiotic with the state-affiliated enterprises which pushed the country into economic modernity. Second, Japan’s economic miracle of the 1970s is so recent that many founders from that era are still in charge.

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