Innovation has always been at the center of everything we do. Being one step ahead means taking calculated risks and a willingness to invent your own future.
Marcel de Botton arrived in Portugal in 1940 and for many years, he owned one of the largest Portuguese plastic factories in the greater Lisbon area. That all began to change, however, in 1974 as dramatic developments in Portugal’s political landscape began to have a negative effect on the management of privately-owned companies. He sold his interest in the company for $1 and returned to what he loved best – rigid plastic packaging – and Logoplaste was born in 1976.
At the time, only companies with fewer than 50 employees could operate without an employee council or union. That political situation wasn’t about to change, so Marcel thought of an ingenious way to make it work for him. He created what he called a ‘through-the-wall’ business model, producing packaging in small factories (each with fewer than 50 employees) that were installed directly on the client's site. This fully integrated solution, marked the beginning of in-house manufacturing in Europe, and Logoplaste grew aggressively in the Portuguese market between 1976 and the late 1980s.
Time to pass the baton
To maintain the company’s growth momentum, Marcel de Botton knew that Logoplaste needed to expand its horizons and its markets and an international expansion strategy would be the answer. He also recognized something that entrepreneurs often fail to admit: he did not have the capabilities that would be required for an aggressive entry into foreign markets.
A NextGen successor steps forward
While research suggests that many family business CEOs are often reluctant to pass the leadership of their business to the next generation, Marcel de Botton’s decision is an exception. At the age of 64, and with international expansion as the impetus, Marcel decided to pass the leadership baton to the next generation, his son Filipe. In addition to representing some foreign banks in Portugal, Filipe de Botton had already been playing an important role in the financial matters of Logoplaste for several years.
The legacy of an entrepreneurial mindset
While Filipe was involved in the family business at an early age, he was also an entrepreneur in his own right outside the family firm. He founded a private bank with his longtime friend, Alexandre Relvas. When the bank was sold in 1991, Filipe de Botton used his proceeds to purchase the ownership shares of Logoplaste from his father and sisters, giving him both management and ownership control.
As a condition of the purchase, Filipe made sure that his father would continue as the company Chairman. To this day, Marcel de Botton, at the age of 94, remains the Honorary Chairman of Logoplaste.
New ownership structures for a bold way forward
This succession of both management and ownership to Filipe was a new chapter in the Logoplaste family narrative – a family business story that continues to build on the visionary strength and ingenuity of its founder.
In Filipe de Botton’s words, “Innovation has always been at the center of everything we do. Being one step ahead means taking calculated risks and a willingness to invent your own future. It also means developing new ideas, new concepts and revolutionary ways of thinking about the business – and who will be the right person to lead it in a bold new direction.”
Filipe took one of those bold steps in 1996 when he invited his friend and former business partner, Alexandre Relvas, to join Logoplaste as Co-CEO and a minority investor, opening up the group’s leadership to a non-family member for the first time. Logoplaste experienced strong international expansion under their co-leadership, a success that appears to contradict some research that suggests that non-family CEOs of family firms outperform when they don’t share power with family members.
As Logoplaste’s success continued, a new expansion opportunity emerged in 2016 that required a large capital injection, and Logoplaste made a decision to seek a private equity investor. In 2016, Carlyle Group became a 60 per cent shareholder in Logoplaste. The de Botton Family Office retains the remaining 40 per cent.
Filipe became Chairman and Alexandre joined the Board, as both stepped down as Co-CEOs. And for the first time in Logoplaste’s history, a non-family CEO was hired.
The challenge of non-family CEO transitions
Filipe acknowledges the difficulty in the transition to an external CEO. “It was hard,” he says, “of course it was hard, even if you tell yourself it is not. In the first couple of months I was here in the Family Office and I did not understand why they were having meetings in the Logoplaste office across the lawn and I wasn’t being called to attend those meetings. It was not that I wanted to be there. I just suffered because of not being there.”
The continuing role of family governance
Although the CEO succession process was externalized, within the setting of the partnership with Carlyle, the de Botton family intends to maintain its role in the governance of Logoplaste.
“Logoplaste is, at its core, a family business”, as is stated on the company’s website and the de Botton family continues to be the key ingredient in Logoplaste’s success and continuity.
As Filipe de Botton explains: “In order to strengthen your role as an influencer in the company, it’s very positive when your business partner understands that what you are suggesting is, indeed, the best thing for the company; that you are not just taking positions based on emotions and personal aspects." One day in the future, his successors can help in the selection of the next CEO for Logoplaste.
Planning for the third-generation successor
According to Filipe, maintaining the bond between the company and the founding family is important, even for the private equity investors, since this link increases the company’s value. For this reason, he is confident that the involvement of the next generation of de Botton family members in the company will be vital. Although private equity is currently the first shareholder, he is conscious that the fund will exit at some point in the future and it will be necessary to identify a successor who will be prepared to carry the business forward.
Planning for that succession is already underway.
The future of the family business
Filipe has led the de Botton family’s progression from a family enterprise to a high-functioning ‘enterprising family’. He has created many new ventures outside Logoplaste such as a non-profit organization to support children with disabilities, a joint venture with another family firm which is the leading premium ice cream producer in Portugal, a co-work venture, as well as one in ceramics and another related to blueberry production. Filipe’s son Lourenço works in the company’s blueberry operations and the family shares a modern open-office space with 20 co-workers, all working side-by-side on the family’s commercial and philanthropic ventures.
The evolution from a family enterprise to an enterprising family
In the case of Logoplaste, the transfer from the first generation to the second and the plan for the transfer from the second generation to the third appear to be very different transition events. However, they share two important and common threads in the de Botton family enterprise:
- a strong-willed entrepreneur with a clear vision of how the business and the family should evolve, and
- an older generation that begins to consider succession at an early age (Marcel in his ‘60s and Filipe in his late ‘50s).
Marcel de Botton did not hesitate to pass the company leadership to the next generation. As the passion for sustaining the family business continues to echo through the second and third generations, Filipe de Botton also appears to welcome the idea of passing the baton within the family as well.