Corporate Ownership Around the World
62 Pages Posted: 31 Jul 1998
Date Written: August 1998
We present data on ownership structures of large corporations in 27 wealthy economies, making an effort to identify the ultimate controlling shareholders of these firms. We find that, except in economies with very good shareholder protection, relatively few of these firms are widely held, in contrast to the Berle and Means image of ownership of the modern corporation. Rather, these firms are typically controlled by families or the State. Equity control by financial institutions or other widely held corporations is far less common. The controlling shareholders typically have power over firms significantly in excess of their cash flow rights, primarily through the use of pyramids and participation in management. The results suggest that the central agency problem in large corporations around the world is that of restricting expropriation of minority shareholders by the controlling shareholders, rather than that of restricting empire building by professional managers unaccountable to shareholders.
JEL Classification: G32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation