Ownership Structure

The dominant model of the firm in Western economies is the limited liability company owned by shareholders, but the form varies significantly between countries. In some countries the control rights of the owners are limited by powers given to stakeholderswho may share in the appointment and supervision of managers and in the determination of the enterprise’s objectives. In Germany, for example, large companies recognize the role of workers and other groups by giving them half the positions on the supervisory board that oversees the management board (Douma 1997). There are also firms owned by members and operated as co-operative or mutual enterprises and some
owned by national and local government.

The notion that privately owned enterprises should be run in the interests of shareholders is not a characteristic of companies in all advanced economies. Yoshimori (1995) proposed that shareholder companies can be classified as follows:

Monistic : where the company serves a single interest group, normally shareholders.These types of companies are commonly found in the UK and the USA.

Dualistic : where the company serves two interest groups. Shareholders are the primary group but employees’ interests are also served. These types of companies are commonly found in France and Germany.

Pluralistic : where the company serves the interests of stakeholders in the company and not just shareholders. Employee and supplier interests may be paramount. Such companies are found in Japan.
Since Yoshimori’s study some commentators have argued that there has been some degree of convergence between European and Anglo-American forms of corporate organizations because of greater international competition between enterprises.
Likewise, commercial and economic forces in Japan have put significant pressure on companies to reduce the emphasis on the long-term employment of staff and place
greater emphasis on profitability.

Trefor Jones, Manchester School of Management, UMIST

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