In our paper, When Blockholders Leave Feet First: Do Ownership and Control Affect Firm Value?, which was recently made publicly available on SSRN, we investigate the effect of ownership and control on firm value, a longstanding question in finance, by employing the sudden death of large individual shareholders as a natural experiment. Our analysis focuses on stock price reactions to the deaths of individual blockholders who hold 5% or more in a U.S. listed firm. The main advantage of this approach is that sudden deaths are exogenous events that allow us to identify the impact of ownership and control on firm value. We analyze the value of inside and outside blockholders. Outside blockholders differ from insiders in that they are not actively involved in day-to-day management. We compare the magnitude of stock price reactions between inside and outside blockholders and note that any effect of ownership transition on firm value due to liquidity or anticipated takeover activity is likely to cancel out. The difference in the stock price reactions between inside and outside blockholders is therefore informative about the value of ownership and control.
Our study is the first to evaluate the effect of blockholders on firm value through the use of sudden deaths. In a related paper Slovin and Sushka (1993) analyze the event of death of blockholders. We draw a distinction between sudden and non-sudden deaths because entrenched blockholders are likely to hold onto their ownership until their deaths. Our concerns about entrenchment appears to be relevant as our findings show that stock price reactions are systematically more positive for non-sudden deaths than for sudden deaths. Using sudden death as opposed to non-sudden death is thus important for the interpretation of the effect of blockholders on firm value.