The changing relation between CEOs and shareholders: a case study on Royal Philips NV, 1971-2001

Abe de Jong, Marieke van der Poel, Michiel Wolfswinkel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: This paper aims to present case study evidence on the changes in the relations between chief executive officers (CEOs) of large firms and shareholders in the past three decades of the twentieth century. In line with insights from agency theory, the CEOs have experienced increased scrutiny from their principals, the shareholders. This development has affected financial communication and investor relations as well as stock market prices. Design/methodology/approach: The Dutch electronics firm Royal Philips NV in the transition period of 1971-2001 has been studied using publicly available disclosures and stock market prices. A descriptive case study approach is combined with event study methodology. Findings: It was observed that the increased emphasis on shareholder interests has affected the interactions between Philips’ respective CEOs and the shareholders’ reactions to strategic decisions as measured by stock price changes. Around the beginning of the twenty-first century, clarity and openness in CEO communication was the norm and deviations were punished with volatile stock prices. Research limitations/implications: The study relies on publicly available data. Originality/value: The case study of Philips can be extrapolated to other exchange-listed firms in the late twentieth century, which faced changed expectations about the role of the CEO, investor relations and the CEO’s accountability toward shareholders. This transition is relevant not only as a historical observation, but also as a background to studies in finance and management about top management and financial markets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-400
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Management History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Chief executive officer (CEO)
  • Financial markets
  • Investor relations
  • Principal-agent theory
  • Shareholder communication
  • The Netherlands

Cite this