The founding clan
Remaining "among ourselves", a sensible choice
"The extended industrial family"
Inter-generational successions, a major challenge
In this protected system, the founders' descendants succeeded one another at the Solvay helm. Membership of the family was not enough to reach the top positions; it was also important to have the appropriate skills. Sons were pushed towards civil engineering, and it was customary for the expected successor to undertake a full traineeship. When blood ties reached their limits, in-laws were brought in, with senior positions occupied by Fernand van der Straeten (1894 to 1913), Emile Tournay (1914 to 1947), Emmanuel Janssen (1916 to 1931), Philippe Aubertin (1929 to 1958) and René Boël, appointed as manager in 1931 and chairman in 1964.
A perennial family dynamic
Recent developments at Solvay reflect the dynamics of modern family capitalism, which has learned to combine tradition and openness. Various initiatives aim to maintain cohesion between the 2,500 descendants of the founders, with their smaller or larger shareholdings, such as "young shareholder days" or a private "minifacebook". Always involved in the life of the company, the founding families have kept their influence intact, appointing Nicolas Boël to the chairmanship of the board in 2012. The sale of the pharmaceutical business, the acquisition of Rhodia, and again the appointment for the first time of a non-Belgian CEO, who is neither a family member nor from the Solvay stable, in the person of Jean-Pierre Clamadieu, are all major policy changes supported by the family shareholders.