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Vincenzo Scafarto, Federica Ricci, Gaetano Della Corte, Pasquale De Luca



This paper investigates the interplay between board-level governance characteristics, ownership concentration and firm performance in the Italian corporate landscape, which is characterized by high (though varying) degrees of ownership concentration. The empirical setting of this study is the Italian stock market and specifically a sample of non-financial firms included in FTSE MIB and mid-cap index of Milan stock exchange, spanning a five-year time period from 2011 up to 2015. We regressed an accounting proxy for firm performance, namely the return-on-asset (ROA) ratio, on several board-level governance variables and specifically board size, board independence, CEO-chairman duality and audit committee (ACD) full independence. In doing so, we also controlled for the impact of different levels of ownership concentration by partitioning the sample into firms with lower and-higher-than-median values of ownership concentration (OC). The empirical results indicate that board characteristics differently impact performance in firms with lower levels of OC compared to firms with higher OC. Specifically, in lower-OC firms, board independence and AC full independence have a negative impact, whereas CEO duality (either alone or interacted with board independence) has a positive impact on performance. Conversely, higher-OC firms benefit from a large board size and are negatively affected by AC independence, while the remaining variables are not significant. The key insight to be gained from our evidence is that the individual and interaction effects of board-level mechanisms may be contingent on the presence of other governance mechanisms (in this instance, the degree of ownership concentration). As such, this research adds to the existing literature questioning the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to corporate boards. In terms of practical implications, our findings support the notion that firms might consider the potential interaction and substitution effects between governance mechanisms and structure boards accordingly.

Keywords: Board Structure, Ownership Concentration, Firm Performance, Board Independence, Audit Committee Independence

Received: 14.07.2017

Accepted: 15.10.2017

How to cite this paper: Scafarto, V., Ricci, F., Della Corte, G., & De Luca, P. (2017). Board structure, ownership concentration and corporate performance: Italian evidence. Corporate Ownership & Control, 15(1-2), 347-359.