Family entrepreneurship is a long-standing phenomenon. Most of the time, families do business together in order to create prosperity for themselves and their community.

For many years, research into family firms lagged behind, as most attention was paid to large publicly traded firms in which family ownership and management was not considered relevant or even was not supposed to exist. Over the last decades, research on family firms has grown rapidly and gained increased attention as a legitimate area of scholarly inquiry. Across the globe, research programs have been launched, family business chairs endowed, and family business centers formed.

In 1994, Jönköping International Business School (JIBS) was established with the clear vision of becoming a leading business school in the areas of entrepreneurship, internationalization, and business renewal. Based on this overall profile of the new school, it was soon realized that a focus on family firms and ownership matters was both important and relevant. Accordingly, JIBS became a pioneer in Scandinavia, establishing a group of scholars devoted to the fields of family business and ownership in terms of both research and teaching. In 1996, Professor Leif Melin obtained the first research grant from the Carl-Olof and Jenz Hamrin Foundation with the purpose of building a research program on “The Dynamics of Family Firms”. This first donation made it possible to develop the critical mass that would later be the base for the foundation of the Centre for Family Entereprise and Ownership (CeFEO). Professor Melin hired a number of Ph.D. candidates and senior researchers for the program. From the beginning, the research was interdisciplinary, involving researchers from management, commercial law and accounting. The new research coincided with a strong, increased interest in important issues related to family firms and ownership both in Sweden and internationally. Additional research grants meant that more people could be employed to conduct research and teach about family entrepreneurship and ownership. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the number of Ph.D. candidates and senior researchers grew.

In 2001, Per-Olof Bjuggren, Lars-Göran Sund, Annika Hall, Leif Melin, and Mattias Nordqvist published the first two JIBS articles in Family Business Review. Lars-Göran Sund published a comprehensive monograph-based study on family business succession and the gift and inheritance tax regime in Sweden, and in the spring of 2002, Emilia Florin Samuelsson defended the first doctoral dissertation on a family business topic at JIBS. Since then, researchers from JIBS working in CeFEO have published numerous articles, books, dissertations, book chapters, and reports both nationally and internationally. Relatedly, several awards and scholarships have been awarded to CeFEO researchers in recognition of the quality of their research.

CeFEO was established during the fall of 2005 thanks to a generous donation from the Carl-Olof and Jenz Hamrin Foundation. The official inauguration was held on November 23rd, 2005. Leif Melin that led the centre as CeFEO Director until 2012, with the support of Mattias Nordqvist as Co-Director from 1999. Over the years, the continually growing research and teaching activities focusing on family business and ownership issues have become an integrated part of the internationally leading position that JIBS has achieved within the area of entrepreneurship, ownership and business renewal. JIBS is now internationally recognized as a strong research environment for family business and ownership topics, which are prioritized in JIBS’s strategy for future growth. Due to our accomplishments, CeFEO has a wide network of universities, business schools, individual scholars, and educators around the world supporting our intention to remain at the forefront of family business and ownership research and education in the future.

In 2011, the Carl-Olof and Jenz Hamrin Foundation financed a Research Chair in Family Business and the "Hamrin Visiting Professor Program". In 2012, the Hamrin Professor in Family Business Strategy Mattias Nordqvist succeeded as CeFEO Director and kept this role until 2019, with the support of Francesco Chirico as Co-Director. Until 2017, CeFEO was almost entirely financed through external funding from different types of sources: national research councils, foundations, companies, private individuals, and government authorities.

In 2018, JIBS decided to channel more internal funding to CeFEO (and two other research centers, MMTC and CEnSE). From January 2018, JIBS allocated a strategic investment fund to CeFEO for a period of three years (2018-2020) . The strategic investment offered the opportunity to reorganize the governance of CeFEO. The new leadership group of CeFEO included Mattias Nordqvist (Director), Francesco Chirico (Co-Director, head of research), Massimo Baù (head of education), and Kajsa Haag (head of outreach).

In 2020, Kajsa Haag and Massimo Baù became Co-Directors of CeFEO, adopting a dual leadership model. Since August 2020, Massimo Baù is CeFEO Director, while Kajsa Haag took over the responsibility as Associate Dean of Faculty for the Business Administration group. The same year, CeFEO names was modified from “Centre for Family Enterprise and Ownership” to “Centre for Family Entrepreneurship and Ownership”, as a way to remark the adherence to the JIBS’ focus areas of Entrepreneurship and Ownership. The JIBS strategic investment to CeFEO was renewed for 2021 and 2022.

In 2022, CeFEO received two large research grants for a total of 17.5 million SEK from the Kamprad Family Foundation for investigating foundation ownership and rural ownership and stimulating entrepreneurship research for a living countryside. These grants will significantly impact the future development of the centre around these areas of investigation.

In 2023, CeFEO counts over 50 faculty members and 30 affiliated scholars. CeFEO is co-financed by the strategic investments of Jönköping International Business and Jönköping University. The EQUIS accreditation committee praised CeFEO as a JIBS' strategic assets for for securing a 5 years re-accretation valueing CeFEO's impact in research, education, and outreach.

Leif Melin – Professor Emeritus and Founder of the Centre for Family Entrepreneurship and Ownership (CeFEO) –  takes us to the origins and history of CeFEO (1995-2015).