The “Unwritten Will” in Interpersonal Network Ties: Founder Legacy and International Networking of Family Firms in History
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In this study, we explore the role of interpersonal network ties in the context of internationalizing family firms. Through two historical cases—Alhström and Serlachius—we study how the founder-entrepreneurs’ domestic and international identity-based and calculative ties emerged and further evolved within and across country borders in the transitional incumbent–successor context. By using a longitudinal qualitative approach, we were able to build on the notions of “social legacy” of founders in family firms in conjunction with their interpersonal networks and the cultivation or disruption of the more or less embedded ties by their successors over an intergenerational period of time. Our contribution is found in illustrating how the different types of interpersonal network ties of the two founder-entrepreneurs embedded in historical contingencies together worked as the mechanism endorsing the founders’ “social legacies” in the successor generations’ international networking. On the basis of our findings, we introduce the concept of “international networking legacy”, which becomes considered by the next generation either as an advantage or a disadvantage for their own approaches to international networking.