Case Study

Lee Kum Kee’s five generations of growth (Abridged)

13 pages
December 2019
Reference: IMD-7-2045

This Overview case summarizes the story and development of the LKK food and health products company, from its origins as a small provider of oyster sauce, to a thriving multinational firm in the early 21st Century. Since 1980 it had grown from a small specialist provider of oyster sauce with just 25 employees to a large multinational firm offering a wide range of food brands and health products. There was a particular focus on governance reform, ownership strategies, and the values and disciplines needed for long-term resilience. A challenge of passing on ownership to members of the fifth generation, a group of 14 cousins, was being met at the time of writing. Reforms of the early 21st Century to strengthen family relationships, governance and strategy were proving successful. There was also a strong humanitarian emphasis, with the establishment of enlightened or ‘autopilot’ leadership, placing collective need ahead of individual ego, and establishment of the Happiness Index, measured internally at the company, and the subject of a centre the family funded at Harvard University. The family faced new challenges. It was considering the establishment of a separate Owners Board – a function that had been carried out in effect by the Family Council. The case summarizes four previous case studies, the (A), (B), (C) and (D) cases, dating from 2002.

Learning Objective

The case illustrates the importance of family relationships, governance reform, strategic planning and how values help long-term resilience. There are insights on succession of a generation of owners who have not held executive roles.

Ownership, Philanthropy, Family Office, Succession
World/global, China
Lee Kum Kee, Consumer Goods, Food and Beverage, Consumer Goods, Food Seasoning, Healthcare
From late 19th Century to 2019
Field Research
© 2019
Available Languages
Related material
Teaching note, Video
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