What is a shareholder foundation ?

A shareholder foundation describes a non-profit foundation that owns an industrial or commercial firm. The former holds all or part of the shares of the latter, in addition to the majority of voting rights – or at least a blocking minority.

Why a european study ?

The model of shareholder foundation, which combines charitable giving and investment, capitalism and philanthropy, remains largely ignored in France. The Laboratoires Pierre Fabre are indeed an exception in the French economic/business landscape. Prophil, a French strategic consulting firm, specialized in new philanthropic and economic models, has naturally chosen shareholder foundations as a research topic.

Following a conference organized with Delsol Avocats in March 2014, Propil decided to gather this well-known law firm, the Philanthropy Chair of the Essec Business School, to explore the topic with the financial support of Mazars. The study was conducted in 4 European countries: Denmark, Germany, France and Switzerland.

The study explores an economic reality that remains a groundbreaking terra incognita. This model is paradoxical: widespread yet unknown, influence yet discreet, virtuous for some and subversive for others. It is the starting point of a collective reflection that needs to be pursued.


shareholder foundations in Danmark


shareholder foundations in Germany


shareholder foundations in Sweden


shareholder foundations in France


Who knew that Bosch or Bertelsmann (Germany), Rolex (Switzerland), Ikea (Sweden), Carlsberg (Denmark), or Pierre Fabre (France) belonged to… foundations? There are more than 1,350 cases in Denmark – with 1,000 in Germany and 1,000 in Sweden – where the founders made the fateful decision to transmit all or part of his capital and voting rights to a foundation.

Despite these dual virtues, the shareholder foundation form is largely unknown, especially in France. The Pierre Fabre Laboratories and the press group La Montagne are the exception, but at a time when 700,000 family enterprises are to be passed down within the next few years – combined with the diminishing role of the welfare state – the industrial foundation model offers an intriguing alternative that requires exploration.

This first European study aims to share the features of this innovative model with public and private leaders, stakeholders involved in business transmission, researchers and students. It seeks to articulate how the model creates inseparable links between investment and giving, responsibility and altruism, capitalism and philanthropy.


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