Demutualization and its Problems
Over the last three decades cooperatives experienced acceleration of institutional innovation with the introduction of many variations to the reference model. It is certainly not surprising that coops changed their organizational structure over time to face the challenges of world. In the United States and in Canada they are commonly referred to as New generation cooperatives, in Italy and Spain as cooperative groups or network of cooperatives. One of the main feature of these new organizational structures is their attempt to take some advantages of the investor oriented firms (above all in capital raising activities) while retaining the mutual/cooperative status. Many of these changes have been undertaken to facilitate the growth of the enterprises both in domestic market and abroad. Due to the wideness of the phenomenon we could name the last three decades the age of hybridization. However in some cases the search for new structures went further and assumed the aspect of conversion of mutuals into stock firms. Our paper will deal with this latter part of the story, focusing on cooperatives that preferred conversion or demutualization to hybridization. The paper describes the chronology and the geography of demutualization and analyses the forces that drove it over the last decades. The main conclusion is that demutualization provided solutions for real problems, as hybridization did, however the choice between these two options seems to have been more a matter of ideology than of efficiency.
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