Purpose – In this paper, two different ownership structures in Belgian banks are studied to see whether this had an impact on how these banks went through the financial crisis of 2007-2008. On the one hand, there is the concentrated ownership structure with a number of major shareholders, while on the other hand, the ownership can be really dispersed with no shareholder having a significantly large stake and ability to influence management’s decisions. Design/methodology/approach – The authors study three large Belgians banks. Dexia and KBC followed the first model (concentrated ownership), while Fortis’ ownership was really dispersed since the year 2000. The authors perform several interviews with people involved with these banks during the crisis and analyze several external sources of information. Findings – The mitigating impact that major shareholders could have had on the – in hindsight – wrong decisions of Belgian banks’ top managers is found to be very limited. Therefore, it can be concluded that the dispersed ownership structure of Fortis was not an important factor in its collapse. Nevertheless, a concentrated ownership structure has been found out to help in case of financial distress, mainly because governments will be more inclined to participate to bailouts when a sound rescue strategy, elaborated with the help of a stable and concentrated ownership structure, is present. Originality/value – By performing interviews, the authors get an insider’s point of view of these banks during the crisis.
- Corporate governance
- Financial crisis