Do board contacts matter? : an analysis of the relationship between boards of directors’ ties and the performance of Australia’s largest companies.

Smith, Kevin John (2009) Do board contacts matter? : an analysis of the relationship between boards of directors’ ties and the performance of Australia’s largest companies. Masters by Research thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Boards of directors are thought to provide access to a wealth of knowledge and resources for the companies they serve, and are considered important to corporate governance. Under the Resource Based View (RBV) of the firm (Wernerfelt, 1984) boards are viewed as a strategic resource available to firms. As a consequence there has been a significant research effort aimed at establishing a link between board attributes and company performance. In this thesis I explore and extend the study of interlocking directorships (Mizruchi, 1996; Scott 1991a) by examining the links between directors’ opportunity networks and firm performance. Specifically, I use resource dependence theory (Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978) and social capital theory (Burt, 1980b; Coleman, 1988) as the basis for a new measure of a board’s opportunity network. I contend that both directors’ formal company ties and their social ties determine a director’s opportunity network through which they are able to access and mobilise resources for their firms. This approach is based on recent studies that suggest the measurement of interlocks at the director level, rather than at the firm level, may be a more reliable indicator of this phenomenon. This research uses publicly available data drawn from Australia’s top-105 listed companies and their directors in 1999. I employ Social Network Analysis (SNA) (Scott, 1991b) using the UCINET software to analyse the individual director’s formal and social networks. SNA is used to measure a the number of ties a director has to other directors in the top-105 company director network at both one and two degrees of separation, that is, direct ties and indirect (or ‘friend of a friend’) ties. These individual measures of director connectedness are aggregated to produce a board-level network metric for comparison with measures of a firm’s performance using multiple regression analysis. Performance is measured with accounting-based and market-based measures. Findings indicate that better-connected boards are associated with higher market-based company performance (measured by Tobin’s q). However, weaker and mostly unreliable associations were found for accounting-based performance measure ROA. Furthermore, formal (or corporate) network ties are a stronger predictor of market performance than total network ties (comprising social and corporate ties). Similarly, strong ties (connectedness at degree-1) are better predictors of performance than weak ties (connectedness at degree-2). My research makes four contributions to the literature on director interlocks. First, it extends a new way of measuring a board’s opportunity network based on the director rather than the company as the unit of interlock. Second, it establishes evidence of a relationship between market-based measures of firm performance and the connectedness of that firm’s board. Third, it establishes that director’s formal corporate ties matter more to market-based firm performance than their social ties. Fourth, it establishes that director’s strong direct ties are more important to market-based performance than weak ties. The thesis concludes with implications for research and practice, including a more speculative interpretation of these results. In particular, I raise the possibility of reverse causality – that is networked directors seek to join high-performing companies. Thus, the relationship may be a result of symbolic action by companies seeking to increase the legitimacy of their firms rather than a reflection of the social capital available to the companies. This is an important consideration worthy of future investigation.

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ID Code: 32188
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Masters by Research)
Supervisor: Nicholson, Gavin & Gallery, Natalie
Keywords: corporate governance, boards of directors, directors, networks, social capital, interlocks, resource dependence
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Current > Schools > School of Accountancy
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 12 May 2010 05:05
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:56

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