Rule-breaking and legitimacy: a failure of artful navigation?

Lorraine Warren*, Robert Smith

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the tension between rule-breaking and legitimacy for entrepreneurs, who are expected to challenge and change social or business norms. In doing so, they may be presented as heroes in the media, or alternatively, are cast out as villains with attendant negative press with consequent loss of legitimacy.

Through secondary data methods, the paper analyses the case of Vance Miller, an entrepreneur from the North of England who has achieved economic success amid reports of alleged criminality and poor ethical behaviour. Thus he spans rule-breaking and legitimacy.

The paper illustrates how rule-breaking directed towards demonstrable entrepreneurial achievement does not always result in media legitimacy. Miller’s storyline both chimes with and clashes with the discourse of the enterprise culture, providing a cautionary note for aspirant entrepreneurs.

Research limitations/implications
The hero-villain paradox remains relatively unexplored in the media, and thus further qualitative research is required, particularly for aspirant entrepreneurs with controversial or criminal backgrounds.

Practical implications

Entrepreneurs should question carefully the extent and potential consequences of rule breaking in regard to legitimacy.

Social implications
The paper highlights and indeed questions the role of the media in their representations of entrepreneurship, and challenges the valorisation of rule-breaking behaviour by entrepreneurs.

The paper makes a distinctive contribution to the literature by examining the relation between rule-breaking and legitimacy for an entrepreneur who is represented negatively in the media, yet remains successful, counter to the heroic stereotype.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)243-262
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behavior & Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Entrepreneurship
  • Enterprise culture
  • Media
  • Criminality
  • Rule breaking
  • Vance Miller


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