HCBE Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Business Administration (DBA)


H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship


H Young Baek

Committee Member

Charles Collver

Committee Member

David Cho


This research links together disparate literature on family and nonfamily firms, large and small firms, and risk for small firms. The literature is not coherent in one theme: whether family firms operate with greater risk relative to nonfamily firms. Yet the literature finds performance advantage to family firms without an explanation of why family firms on average generate better accounting returns and values relative to nonfamily firms other than for reduced agency costs translated into value. The first essay examines two measures of risk--debt ratio and idiosyncratic risk--of small publicly held family firms relative to nonfamily firms to investigate differences in financial risk between them. Using a unique hand-collected data set of small family and nonfamily firms, I analyze certain firm characteristics (family ownership, family member on the board, size, and dual class status) and find that family and nonfamily firms do not differ in their book-based debt ratios but do differ in their market-based debt ratios. Specifically, I find that family firms that tightly control voting rights through dual class status have higher debt ratios and hence have higher risk than nonfamily firms. Furthermore, I find a positive relation between idiosyncratic risk and family ownership, and I find as the percentage of family ownership increases idiosyncratic risk increases.

The second essay utilizes the likelihood of incentive compensation presence and incentive compensation ratio of small publicly held family firms relative to nonfamily firms to investigate differences in CEO dividends and incentive compensation. The tools available for boards of directors to incentivize CEOs to act in accordance with diverse shareholder wishes, including risk-taking, investment selection, and the on-the-job consumption of resources, are stock options, stock grants, and cash bonuses. I argue that agency theory in practice is imperfect in incentive contracting. Specifically, CEO dividends and family ownership reduce the likelihood of the existence of an incentive compensation plan. I find in the presence of CEO dividends that family and nonfamily firms differ in their incentive compensation ratios and the likelihood of incentive compensation. In my sample, I find a significant negative relation between the CEO dividend income ratio and the incentive compensation ratio and between family ownership percentage and the incentive compensation ratio. Lastly, consistent with current literature, I find that growth opportunities positively influence both family and nonfamily firms' incentive compensation ratios.

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