Purpose: The purpose of this study is to identify antecedent factors in addition to merit that contribute to the designation of first author on a publication. A second purpose is to provide knowledge of the significance and implications of being designated first author on a research article in the management discipline. A third purpose is to propose directions for further research. Design/methodology/approach: The study consists of an empirical analysis of archival data gathered from 780 authors of 260 coauthored articles from top-tier journals and uses logit regression to analyze the data. Findings: The empirical analysis shows that under certain conditions author need and author power are factors that combine with merit as antecedents to the designation of being the first author of an article. Originality/value: To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first empirical study that identified antecedent factors that contribute to first authorship beyond the prescribed factor of merit which professional norms in management assume is the one and only factor that contributes to being designated as first author.