Three Essays on Age and Firm Performance

Zeller, Jonas (2014). Three Essays on Age and Firm Performance. (Dissertation, University of Bern, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences)

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Old captains at the helm: Chairman age and firm performance
Urs Waelchli and Jonas Zeller
December, 2012
This paper examines whether the chairmen of the board (COBs) impose their life-cycles on the firms over which they preside. Using a large sample of unlisted firms we find a robust negative relation between COB age and firm performance. COBs age much like ‘ordinary’ people. Their cognitive abilities deteriorate and they experience significant shifts in motivation. Deteriorating cognitive abilities are the main driver of the performance effect that we observe. The results imply that succession planning problems in unlisted firms are real. Mandatory retirement age clauses cannot solve these problems.

Corporate Aging around the World
Jonas Zeller
January, 2014
This paper examines whether firms internationally age as US firms do (Loderer, Stulz, and Wälchli, 2013). Using a large panel, I find that Tobin’s Q monotonically falls with firm Age across all nineteen countries in the sample. The decrease varies across countries but is generally extremely robust and economically significant. ROA, sales growth, and market share decrease over a firm’s lifetime in most countries as well. Furthermore, older firms reduce their capital expenditures and R&D outlays. Instead, they distribute more cash to their shareholders. Overall, the results suggest that corporate aging is not confined to the US but is a genuine phenomenon that affects listed firms worldwide. This evidence supports the hypothesis that corporate aging is driven by managers who optimally focus on managing their assets in place and neglect the development of growth opportunities. I finally ask whether the managers’ choice and with it the magnitude of the decline in Tobin’s Q is a function of country-level institutional settings. I find that most notably firms age faster in countries where employees are relatively well protected by labor regulation.

Is employment protection the fountain of corporate youth?
Claudio Loderer, Urs Wälchli, Jonas Zeller*
September 2014
Acharya, Baghai, and Subramanian (2012, 2013) find that employment protection legislation (EPL) encourages innovation. We argue that this effect should be particularly strong in mature firms. We would therefore also expect EPL to boost growth opportunities. Using the natural Experiment created by the staggered passage of changes in EPL across seventeen countries, we find evidence that employment protection legislation does indeed stimulate Innovation efforts, especially in mature firms. The effect is stronger in countries in which patents are owned by the firm and in the context of regular contracts. Consistent with that, EPL encourages risk taking. Overall, however, there is Little evidence that the effect of EPL on innovation effort translates into higher firm value, not even in mature firms. EPL does motivate employees in those firms to put in a greater effort, as evidenced by stronger sales growth. Yet it also increases costs, reduces profitability, and depresses Tobin’s Q ratios in all firms, especially the mature ones, possibly because of the rigidities that characterize these firms [Loderer, Stulz, and Waelchli (2014)].

Item Type:

Thesis (Dissertation)


03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Department of Business Management > Institute of Financial Management

UniBE Contributor:

Zeller, Jonas and Loderer, Claudio


600 Technology > 650 Management & public relations




Igor Peter Hammer

Date Deposited:

15 Dec 2015 16:51

Last Modified:

15 Dec 2015 16:55



Additional Information:

e-Dissertation (edbe)

Uncontrolled Keywords:

Age chairman of the board cognitive abilities firm Performance corporate governance unlisted firms cross country Company Age employment protection innovation




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