Case Study

Jebsen & Jessen Family Enterprise: A Hong from the cold

22 pages
December 2016
Reference: IMD-7-1859

Singapore, Sept 2016. For the Jebsen and Jessen families, Asia had been an adopted land for over 120 years, not counting the years their ancestors, as Danish seafarers, had plied the treacherous Asian waters. In 1895, two of them had set roots in Hong Kong and established a first trading house, one of the original foreign Hongs in the colony. From those modest beginnings emerged a powerful group with over US$4.5 billion in sales and over 7,700 employees, with four principal entities: Jebsen & Co., based in Hong Kong; Jebsen & Jessen (SEA), based in Singapore; Jebsen & Jessen Hamburg, their global trading house; and GMA Garnet, the world leader in mining, processing, distributing and recycling of industrial garnet. The family enterprise survived many near-death experiences because of wars and revolutions, progressively evolving from a pure trading house, first establishing themselves as partners of choice for leading global companies such as Porsche or Demag, then having greater involvement along the value chain through vertical integration and diversifying their geographic footprint into frontier markets such as Indonesia and Myanmar. For the third generation, the future looked promising, but history had taught the family never to rest on its laurels. The governance structure meant that ownership and control were concentrated in a limited number of hands. Would the current leaders be able to identify, groom and incentivize those from the next generation? How could they keep the family at large involved? From the business side, how far should vertical integration and geographical diversification be pushed? How should they react to the recent slowdown in China? Was there a natural limit to CSR activities?

Learning Objective
  • Managing fast growth
  • Governing the family business
  • Succession management
  • Venturing
  • Entrepreneurship in the family business
  • Managing partnerships
  • Vertical integration
  • Portfolio diversification
  • Frontier markets
  • Stewardship
  • Values and ethics
Venturing, Trading, Partnership, Trust, Succession, Growth Management, Distribution Management, Vertical Integration
South-Eastern Asia
GMA Garnet Group, Jebsen and Jessen, Manufacturing, Industrial Goods, Consumer Goods, Luxury Goods and Jewelry, Manufacturing
Time frame: 1895-2016
Field Research
© 2016
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note, Video
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