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A Rent-Protection Theory of Corporate Ownership and Control

  • Lucian Arye Bebchuk

This paper develops a rent-protection theory of corporate ownership structure - and in particular, of the choice between concentrated and dispersed ownership of corporate shares and votes. The paper analyzes the decision of a company's initial owner whether to maintain a lock on control when the company goes public. This decision is shown to be very much influenced by the size that private benefits of control are expected to have. Most importantly, when private benefits of control are large - and when control is thus valuable enough - leaving control up for grabs would attract attempts by rivals to grab control and thereby capture these private benefits; in such circumstances, to preclude a control grab, the initial owner might elect to maintain a lock on control. Furthermore, when private benefits of control are large, maintaining a lock on control would enable the company's initial shareholders to capture a larger fraction of the surplus from value-producing transfers of control. Both results suggest that, in countries in which private benefits of control are large, publicly traded companies will tend to have a controlling shareholder. It is also shown that separation of cash flow rights and voting rights will tend to be used in conjunction with a controlling shareholder structure but not with a dispersed ownership structure. Finally, the paper analyzes why companies might make control partially contestable, as many US companies currently do by adopting antitakeover arrangements. The results of the paper are consistent with the available evidence, can explain the observed patterns of corporate ownership, and yield testable predictions for future empirical work. The analysis also implies that a corporate law system that effectively limits private benefits of control can produce more efficient choices of ownership structure.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w7203.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 7203.

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Date of creation: Jul 1999
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7203
Note: LE
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  1. Stein, Jeremy C, 1988. "Takeover Threats and Managerial Myopia," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 61-80, February.
  2. Marco Pagano & Fabio Panetta & Luigi Zingales, 1995. "Why Do Companies Go Public? An Empirical Analysis," NBER Working Papers 5367, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1994. "Efficient and Inefficient Sales of Corporate Control," NBER Working Papers 4788, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Sanford J. Grossman & Oliver D. Hart, 1987. "One Share/One Vote and the Market for Corporate Control," NBER Working Papers 2347, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Harris, Milton & Raviv, Artur, 1988. "Corporate governance : Voting rights and majority rules," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 203-235, January.
  6. Zingales, Luigi, 1994. "The Value of the Voting Right: A Study of the Milan Stock Exchange Experience," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 7(1), pages 125-48.
  7. Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W, 1997. " A Survey of Corporate Governance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(2), pages 737-83, June.
  8. Lucian Arye Bebchuk, 1994. "Efficient and Inefficient Sales of Corporate Control," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 109(4), pages 957-993.
  9. Demsetz, Harold & Lehn, Kenneth, 1985. "The Structure of Corporate Ownership: Causes and Consequences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1155-77, December.
  10. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Stole, Lars A, 1993. " Do Short-Term Objectives Lead to Under- or Overinvestment in Long-Term Projects?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 48(2), pages 719-29, June.
  11. Jensen, Michael C. & Meckling, William H., 1976. "Theory of the firm: Managerial behavior, agency costs and ownership structure," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 305-360, October.
  12. Luigi Zingales, 1995. "Insider Ownership and the Decision to Go Public," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 62(3), pages 425-448.
  13. Marco Becht & Ailsa Roell, 1999. "Blockholdings in Europe: an international comparison," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/13316, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  14. Becht, Marco & Roell, Ailsa, 1999. "Blockholdings in Europe:: An international comparison1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 43(4-6), pages 1049-1056, April.
  15. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Luigi Zingales, 1996. "Corporate Ownership Structures: Private versus Social Optimality," NBER Working Papers 5584, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Roe, Mark J., 1990. "Political and legal restraints on ownership and control of public companies," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 7-41, September.
  17. Sanford J. Grossman & Oliver D. Hart, 1980. "Takeover Bids, the Free-Rider Problem, and the Theory of the Corporation," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 11(1), pages 42-64, Spring.
  18. Morck, Randall & Shleifer, Andrei & Vishny, Robert W., 1988. "Management ownership and market valuation : An empirical analysis," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1-2), pages 293-315, January.
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