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Title: Family business in Saudi Arabia
Authors: Balila, Sara
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis constitutes the first comprehensive study of family business in Saudi Arabia. Others have focused on aspects of the topic such as succession and strategy, but no prior author has conducted a multi-faceted investigation of the type presented here. Yet family business is an institution of fundamental importance to the economy and society in the country, accounting for a large proportion of employment in the private sector in firms large and small. In what follows, family business is located within the context of national economic policy (chapter 4), its social foundations are analysed (chapter 5), a typology is presented revealing profound differences between firms with respect to age, size and decision making (chapter 6), and issues relating to power, governance, succession and conflict are revealed and interpreted (chapter 7). Comparisons are made between family businesses in Saudi Arabia and in western countries, mainly the UK and USA, to highlight what is truly distinctive about custom and practice in Saudi Arabia. The approach taken in this thesis is primarily qualitative. Semi-structured interviews were conducted at 30 companies with 60 family members of differing status, including CEOs, chairmen and executives, of whom 10 were women and 50 were men. Additionally, documents were gathered from publicly available sources for each case relating to strategy, management and organization. The data were then coded thematically and analysed using the Gioia methodology to identify aggregate themes. Each theme was then examined, discussed and interpreted in detail, drawing on appropriate theory. Especially important to this exercise in sensemaking were the theoretical ideas and constructs of Pierre Bourdieu, enabling fresh insights to be garnered concerning power and the social organization of family business in Saudi Arabia. Little is known or published concerning the role of family members and their daily interactions in family business in Saudi Arabia. My research aims to fill this gap in the literature. A focus on capturing Islamic cultural identity from a Saudi perspective and reflecting upon Saudi nationals’ views and lifestyles are fundamental to understanding family businesses in the country. My research has led to three original and substantive findings. First, while many other authors have identified the importance of culture in shaping family business, I find Saudi Arabia to be distinguished by its stringent approach to the application of Islamic law and societal norms, resulting in distinctive practices such as gender segregation and men inheriting twice as much as women. Second, I find that firm strategies vary considerably depending on company size, age and the practices of family members, leading to four predominant types of strategic decision making. Third, I find that the nature of succession problems varies depending on firm size. In small and medium-sized firms, succession is conceived in classical terms of management succession, with the older generation typically micromanaging the future, whereas in large firms what matters is ownership succession since managerial authority has already been delegated to professional managers.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:Newcastle University Business School

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