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Determinants of Success and Failure in the Internationalization of the Cork Business: A Tale of Two Iberian Family Firms

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Entrepreneurship, Business and Economics - Vol. 2

Part of the book series: Eurasian Studies in Business and Economics ((EBES,volume 3/2))


The main purpose of this paper is to identify the facilitating and restricting factors during the internationalisation path of family firms, considering their competitive advantages, ownership structure, management attitudes and other intangible assets, as well as external factors to the firms, like location. The research involved a long run analysis (of more than one century) of two cork producing firms operating in Spain and Portugal: Mundet & C.ª, Lda and Corticeira Amorim. One of these companies—Mundet—was closed down in the 1980s and the other—Corticeira Amorim—became, and still is, the leading firm worldwide in the cork industry. A detailed comparison of these two histories—one of failure, the other of success—allows an accurate identification of the determinants of successful internationalisation. This comparison is useful for understanding several characteristics of both firms and testing several hypotheses within the context of the theoretical approach to the internationalisation of family firms, as well as the location choices they made, which were an important cause of the opposing destinies of these two emblematic Iberian cork family firms.

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  1. 1.

    See also Colli et al. (2013); Colli and Larson (2014); European Commission (2009); Graves and Thomas (2008); Zahra (2003) and La Porta et al. (1999).

  2. 2.

    Johanson and Wiedersheim-Paul (1975); Johanson and Vahlne (1977, 2009). Critiques of this model can be found in Andersen (1993).

  3. 3.

    The facts about Mundet were collected in Filipe and Afonso (2010).

  4. 4.

    The first company of the Amorim Group, as it is known nowadays, was the firm Amorim & Irmãos, which was founded in 1922. Corticeira Amorim was founded in 1963. In 1969, the partners of this company purchased 40 % shares form their cousins in Amorim & Irmãos and also acquired an interest in the shares of the remaining shareholders (uncles and aunts from the second generation), and the firm became Corticeira Amorim, CA. For further details about the firm and family Amorim history see also Santos (1997), and Branco and Parejo (2011).

  5. 5.

    Three brothers went to Brazil and one died.


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Financial support was provided from national funds by the FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia). This article is part of the Strategic Projects of GHES and UECE (PEst-OE/EGE/UI0436/2014). Francisco Parejo wants to thank for the financial support that was received from the Government of Extremadura to GEHE (GR10082).

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Correspondence to João Carlos Lopes .

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Appendix: Chronology

Appendix: Chronology

1.1 Mundet & C.ª, Lda: 1865–1988

  • 1865—Lorenzo Mundet i Corominas (first generation, founder) came from a long line of cork industrialists. His wife, Teresa Carbó i Saguer, was the daughter of a small-scale cork industrialist from Catalonia, for whom Lorenzo began to work in 1865, in the town of San Antonio de Calonge, in the province of Girona (Catalonia, Spain).

  • 1895—José Mundet, the son of Lorenzo (second generation), opened a small cork factory in Brooklin (New York)—Mundet & Sons, a subsidiary of L. Mundet & Hijos in Catalonia.

  • 1898—A new factory was opened in Palamós (Catalonia), a few kilometres from San Antonio de Calonge.

  • 1902—Arturo Mundet, son of Lorenzo and brother of José, opened a new cork factory for the group in Mexico—Casa Mundet Mexico. José Mundet opened a new unit in Canada—Mundet Cork & Insulation, and was also the Chairman.

  • 1905Mundet open a new factory in Seixal (Setúbal, Portugal), close to the Lisbon harbour, on the south bank of the Tagus River. L. Mundet & Sons had four partners: José Mundet i Carbó, Arturo Mundet i Carbó (each with 1/3 of the shares), Lorenzo Mundet and Luis Gubert i Capellà (married to Carolina Mundet i Carbó, daughter of Lorenzo and sister of José and Arturo) held the remaining shares, which were divided in equal parts. The first managing director of the Portuguese unit was Luíz Gubert i Cappelà. This unit produced cork stoppers, cork discs and other cork artefacts as well as leftovers. The unit in Seixal employed 200 workers in 1905; 430 workers in 1913 and a total of 600 workers in 1916. It closed its doors in 1988.

  • 1906L. Mundet & Hijos was liquidated and became L. Mundet & Sons, a family firm with four partners which was a multinational company has it possessed four sales and productive units (in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Portugal).

  • 1907—Opening of a new factory of cork planks at Vendas Novas (Portugal)

  • 1908—The company changed its name to L. Mundet & Sons Incorporated, and also moved its headquarters from Catalonia to Portugal, opting for a full delocalisation strategy from Spain to Seixal, in Portugal. Firstly José Mundet, and then his son, Joseph Mundet Jr, were the majority shareholders.

  • 1914—Opening of a new cork factory for the preparation of raw materials in Mora (Évora, Portugal), which was in operation until 1963.

  • 1915—Creation of the paper cork section at the Seixal unit.

  • 1917—Opening of a new unit in Amora (Seixal, Portugal) for the production of discs and stoppers. This factory was closed in 1967.

  • 1917—Opening of a new unit in Vendas Novas (Portugal), to produce prepared cork. Closed its doors in 1952.

  • 1920—A new factory was opened in New Jersey, to produce agglomerated cork.

  • 1921 and 1924—Opening of two new factories in Montijo (Portugal) to produce granulated cork and agglomerated cork (black; pure and composite agglomerated cork). They both closed their doors in 1988.

  • 1922—The units in Portugal were all integrated into a new firm—Mundet & Companhia, Lda, with three partners: José Mundet, Luis Gubert i Cappelá and Joaquim de Sousa (a non-family partner), all of them working as managers of the firm. This new firm maintained close relations with Mundet & Sons in the United States, selling the Portuguese cork production (stoppers, raw material and agglomerated cork) to the American market through Mundet & Sons. The American and Canadian branch and the English branch had the same managing director—José Mundet.

  • 1924—Opening of a new factory for cork preparation in Algeria. The manager of Mundet Africa SA was Luis Gubert.

  • 1926—Opening of a sales warehouse in Croydon (England)—Mundet Cork Products, Ltd (England), which was also an affiliate of Mundet & C.ª.

  • 1927—The share capital of Mundet & C.ª was reinforced.

  • 1927—Opening of a new factory at Ponte de Sor (Portalegre, Portugal), and another in Algeria.

  • 1928—Another factory was opened in San Vicente de Alcántara (Extremadura), for processing cork from this Spanish region—Corchos Mundet España, S.A. (San Vicente de Alcantara) was affiliated to Mundet & C.ª, which was managed by Joaquim de Sousa.

  • 1930L. Mundet & Sons, Inc. became Mundet Cork Corporation with two units, one in New York and the other in New Jersey. This firm had exclusivity for the sale of the cork that came from Mundet & C.ª and also had exclusivity in other markets. In 1962 it was sold to Crown Cork & Seal.

  • 1936—The management team of Mundet & C.ª consisted of: José Mundet (second generation), Luis Gubert (married with the daughter of the founder); Joaquim de Sousa; José María Genis Arolas; Antonio Iglesias Cruz and Luis Gubert i Mundet (ground son, third generation).

  • 1938—Was a turning point in terms of the management of Mundet & C.ª, as José Mundet gave his son the majority of shares and others to José Genis and Antonio Iglesias. By doing so, he allowed Joseph Mundet of the third generation to become the majority partner and he was nominated managing director of Mundet & C.ª until his death in 1962.

  • 1939—The mandate of Joseph Mundet was suspended and the management of the company was carried out by Luis Gubert, Joaquim de Sousa and Luis Gubert i Mundet.

  • 1940—José Mundet dies and Joseph Mundet, his son, assumed the role of Chairman of the Mundet Cork Corporation. Since that date only conflict took place, culminating in a court case in which the shares and managerial powers were transferred to Joseph Mundet, José María Genis, Antonio Iglesias and Henry Cant.

  • 1946—A new unit was opened in Jimena de la Frontera (Andalusia/Spain).

  • 1947—Luis Gubert and Joaquim de Sousa sued Joseph Mundet Jr. and the remaining partners. They lost and the partnership was dissolved.

  • 1949—Joaquim de Sousa, Luis Gubert, Luis Gubert i Mundet and Teresa Gubert Gomes sell their shares.

  • 1951—António Iglesias sell his shares to Joseph Mundet Jr. and José María Genis.

  • 1953—Joseph Mundet Jr, José María Genis and José Azeredo Perdigão were the managers of Mundet & C.ª.

  • 1958—The company had several new partners: José Azeredo Perdigão, José Genis Gorgot, Antonio Costa Guerra and Miguel Antonio Horta e Costa.

  • 1962—Joseph Mundet Jr died and his wife became the major shareholder.

  • (…)

  • 1986—Paula Mundet died.

  • 1988—The Seixal and Montijo units were closed down.

  • 1992—Bankruptcy was declared for Mundet & C.ª.

1.2 The Amorim Group: 1908–…

  • 1908—The Amorim family moved to Lamas (Feira /Portugal) and opened a factory. The founder of this factory, António Alves Amorim, his wife, Ana Pinto Alves, and their eleven sons were the main employees of the factory, together with six other employees. They only produced stoppers.

  • 1922—The family built a new factory at Lamas (Feira/Portugal) and founded the firm of Amorim & Irmãos, with the nine sons of António Alves Amorim as partners (second generation). Three of the brothers went to Brazil and two of then also founded firms connected to the cork business (Amorim & Pinto and Amorim & Coelho).

  • 1935—Opening of a new unit in Abrantes (Portugal) to produce their own cork planks.

  • 1939—The firm was reduced to five shareholders (five brothers), who were the brothers who remained in Portugal. At this time the firm had 150 employees.

  • 1940s—The firm Amorim & Irmãos had 321 employees and produced daily almost 700,000 stoppers and almost 200 firms were dependent on it in terms of raw material and credit. The third generation entered the business and the various tasks within the company were divided among members of the family.

  • 1960—The Sociedade de Isolamento de Cortiça (agglomerated cork) was founded in Brazil.

  • 1963Corticeira Amorim was founded in Mozelos (Feira/Portugal). There were five shareholders: four brothers (third generation) and one uncle (second generation). They were also shareholders of Amorim & Irmãos, which had 600 employees. This new firm produced agglomerated cork with the cork leftovers from Amorim & Irmãos.

  • 1968—The firm Inacor was founded, which belonged to the cousins (third generation), which also produced agglomerated cork.

  • 1966Corticeira Amorim Algarve was founded, also producing agglomerated cork.

  • 1967Gerard Schiesser Gmbh in Vienna was founded as a sales agent for the Eastern market.

  • 1969—The sons of Américo Alves Amorim (third generation) bought the firms of Amorim & Irmãos and Itexcork in Vendas Novas (Portugal) from their cousins, as well as Inacor. The firm became Corticeira Amorim CA.

  • 1970s—The importance of the American market was reduced and the European market became more important. Santa Maria da Feira (Portugal) became the centre of cork stopper production, but there was some diversification in terms of cork products.

  • 1972—The group bought Comatral (production of cork planks) in Morocco (Africa).

  • 1976—The group bought Samec (planks production) in Seville (Spain)

  • 1978—Opening of a new unit at Santa Maria da Feira (Aveiro,Portugal)—Ipocork.

  • 1982Champcork was founded in Lamas (Aveiro,Portugal), producing stoppers for sparkling wine.

  • 1983—Creation of Labcork.

  • 1984—Creation of the Hungarokork-Amorim partnership between Corticeira Amorim and two Hungarian publically quoted firms.

  • 1984—José Amorim, one of the shareholders, did not agree with his brothers about the firm’s strategy and left the firm, selling his share to his brother.

  • 1988—The group opened the share capital to other shareholders, but the family kept the majority. The firm is now called Corticeira Amorim SGPS.

  • 1990s—The fourth generation enters the business with degrees in management.

  • (…)

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Lopes, J.C., Branco, A., Parejo, F., Rangel, J.F. (2016). Determinants of Success and Failure in the Internationalization of the Cork Business: A Tale of Two Iberian Family Firms. In: Bilgin, M., Danis, H. (eds) Entrepreneurship, Business and Economics - Vol. 2. Eurasian Studies in Business and Economics, vol 3/2. Springer, Cham.

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