The Divorce of Ownership from Control from 1900: Re-calibrating Imagined Global Historical Trends
In 1900 US business corporations were dominated by plutocratic family owners, while British and French quoted companies more commonly divorced ownership from control. 'Democratic' corporate governance rules explain some of Europe's precocity and London's exceptional listing requirement of large free floats was an important initial factor in manufacturing. Later in the twentieth century, the United States overtook France by further divorcing ownership from control. Business historians should direct their efforts to understanding why Britain was an early pioneer, with persistently wide shareholding, why America took decades to catch up, and why other countries did not build on their earlier lead. The pursuit of alternative (largely imagined) histories of national ownership differences could usefully be curtailed.
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