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The 'Divorce' of ownership from control from 1900 onwards: Re-calibrating imagined global trends


  • Leslie Hannah


In 1900 US business corporations were dominated by plutocratic family owners, while British and French quoted companies showed higher levels of divorce of shareholding owners from management controllers. Distinctive European 'democratic' corporate governance rules explain some of Europe's precocity and London's distinctive listing requirement of large 'free floats' was an important initial factor in manufacturing. Later in the twentieth century, the United States displaced France by further divorcing ownership from control. Business historians should direct their efforts to understanding why Britain was an early pioneer with persistent wide shareholding, why America took decades to catch up and why other countries did not build on their earlier lead (or even married ownership and control more closely). The pursuit of alternative (largely imagined) histories of national ownership differences could usefully be curtailed.

Suggested Citation

  • Leslie Hannah, 2007. "The 'Divorce' of ownership from control from 1900 onwards: Re-calibrating imagined global trends," Business History, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 49(4), pages 404-438.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:bushst:v:49:y:2007:i:4:p:404-438
    DOI: 10.1080/00076790701295821

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