The present research investigates the governance of Italian public utilities whose top management is engaged in balancing the conflicting pressures of the business model and the social functions. In this regard, public control appears to influence only the form of ownership structure. Conversely, the nature of the public management mechanisms does appear to substantially affect the management side of these organizations. With reference to and in line with the best practices, as acknowledged by international literature on corporate governance, interesting predictions emerge, in relation to the degree of ownership concentration and dominance exercised by the government within the company. Corporate governance and board composition are further found to represent good proxies of the level of public management discretion in the decision-making process. The research sheds light on the subject of managing conflicting demands, top management’s autonomy and the preservation of the significant role of the public as well, in relation to public utilities organisations. It is an original study with Italy in its focus, but with international significance, which reframes managerial debates concerning privatization and public utilities functioning.
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