How a large family business carefully plans the transfer of power to the fourth generation


Name of the provider / Family business 

Colruyt Group 

Professional sector and company size 

Retail trade, supermarket chains,
33,000 employees

Need/problems/challenge addressed 

Innovation, Ownership, Succession 



Link to more information  

Colruyt Group is a family enterprise active over three generations. Based in Belgium, it manages a large chain of retail stores, and its activities also stretch to France and Luxembourg. The history of the Colruyt family business starts in 1928 when François Jean Baptiste Marie “Franz” Colruyt started supplying bread and later spices and coffee. In 1958, Franz’s son, Jo, took over the company and opened his first super market in 1964. The company was facing severe hardships until 1984 due to heavy competition and large investment coupled with high recruitment numbers. Bankruptcy was avoided through the simplification of work, the focus on skills, and the lowest-price policy. Since then, Colruyt Group has experienced only growth.

Diversification and internationalisation have also been guiding principles of the Colruyt family enterprise. Since the 1990’s the company has expanded its activities by investing in the non-food sector as well by crossing the border to France and Luxembourg.

Jef Colruyt succeeded his father in 1994 and remained in charge of the company as CEO for more than 28 years. Jef consolidated Colruyt as a robust and strong company and is described by his peers as a visionary and a pioneer. However, as of 1st July 2023, Jef will hand over the leadership of the company to a non-family member, Stefan Goethaert. Some reshuffling of the company’s management was expected by analysts, since Jef had already turned 64 and still remained CEO, despite the unwritten rule at Colruyt that board members retire at 62.

The company is very prudent regarding the transfer of power to the fourth generation, and the process has been slow and careful. Jef Colruyt’s daughter, Lisa Colruyt (41 years old) has been working at the family enterprise for the past 20 years, and only last year she won her place at the board of directors of Colruyt Group. Otherwise, the third generation remains in command of the family enterprise, and it will be succeeded by the fourth generation once the latter has amassed enough experience and skills.