Nash Engineering (A) & (B) - The Dilemma of Serving the Business and the Family

A family-run company for over a century, vacuum technology specialists Nash Engineering were becoming increasingly concerned with bad returns in the late 90s. The Berghmans Lhoist Chaired Professor in Entrepreneurial Leadership Randel Carlock and INSEAD Research Project Manager Elizabeth Florent-Treacy examine a theme common to family-run enterprises hoping to cope with global competition in a mature market. Family members - still the firm's largest shareholders - had great pride in Nash's heritage. But next-generation shareholders were a lot less sentimental, looking for ways to boost their dwindling returns on equity.

by Randel Carlock, Elizabeth Florent-Treacy

A family-run company for over a century, Nash Engineering was seeing its sales start to slump in the late 90s. The maker of vacuum technologies for the chemicals, drugs and power generating industries was threatened by an ongoing global fall in demand, and was being forced to consider a merger, an acquisition or selling itself off if it hoped to thrive - or even survive.

The Berghmans Lhoist Chaired Professor in Entrepreneurial Leadership Randel Carlock and INSEAD Research Project Manager Elizabeth Florent-Treacy examine a theme common to family-run enterprises hoping to cope with global competition in a mature market. With the exception of a few cousins and of Mark Nordenson, former CEO and great-grandson of the founder, the family had had almost no direct involvement in management for some time.

But family members - still the firm's largest shareholders - had great pride in Nash's heritage. It remained among the market's leaders, with several facilities in Asia and South America, and could surely survive the slump by making sensible, well-timed strategic moves. Asian markets had already helped it recover quite soundly from the worst of an early-90s industry-wide downturn. But this was short-lived, due to the severe Asian economic crisis of 1997-8.

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