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CRIEFF Discussion Paper Number 0903

The Age Effect in Entrepreneurship: Founder’s Tenure, Firm Performance, and the Economic Environment

Marco Cucculelli and Giacinto Micucci

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This paper tests the effect of founder’s tenure on firm performance by taking into account the impact of the changes occurring in the economic environment. We use a large dataset of founder-run firms that includes, in addition to financial data, company data directly collected through a survey of about 2,000 Italian firms. Unlike the negative relationship reported in most empirical papers, we found an inverted U-shaped relationship between founder-CEO tenure and firm performance. This relationship is strongly influenced by the characteristics of the environment in which the company competes: while experience plays a key role in fostering performance in less innovative- and less competitive sectors, a dynamic environment makes the performance of the firm less responsive to the benefits of founder tenure. From the viewpoint of policy, growing environment dynamism calls for greater efficiency of the market for corporate control, in order to assure a continued match between skills of CEOs and the external environment.

JEL codes: L25, J24, G34
Keywords: ageing, entrepreneurship, founder-run firms, changing environment

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