Germanys major family businesses

German industry in particular is home to numerous large family businesses that generate €50 million or more each year. In cooperation with Deutsche Bank and the Institut für Mittelstandsforschung (IfM) in Bonn, the BDI regularly studies the approximately 4,500 largest family businesses in Germany.

Although they make up just 0.1 percent of all companies, they make an important contribution to economic growth and employment in Germany.

The findings to date show the following:

  • German industry has a particularly large number of family businesses: Around 31 percent of the biggest family businesses are industrial companies.
  • Family businesses strive for financial independence: The largest family businesses continually increase their equity ratio. In 2013, the largest industrial family businesses had an average equity ratio of around 40 percent.
  • Family businesses last for generations: Most family businesses are in the hands of the second, third or even fourth generation.
  • The largest industrial family businesses have been around for an average of 91 years.
  • Large family businesses are international: Most of the biggest family businesses are experiencing success at the international level. In 2014, the average export quota of the largest industrial family businesses was around 45 percent.

In these BDI surveys, a family business is defined as an enterprise where up to two families have at least 50 percent ownership of the company and where at least one family member is also involved in the management of the company (“family-led business”) or when up to three families have at least 50 percent ownership (“family controlled”). All key figures, analyses and company surveys conducted within the project so far are available at