Article first published online: 17th December 2002 DOI: 10.1111/0022-1082.00115
We use data on ownership structures of large corporations in 27 wealthy economies to identify the ultimate controlling shareholders of these firms. We find that, except in economies with very good shareholder protection, relatively few of these firms are widely held, in contrast to Berle and Means's image of ownership of the modern corporation. Rather, these firms are typically controlled by families or the State. Equity control by financial institutions is far less common. The controlling shareholders typically have power over firms significantly in excess of their cash flow rights, primarily through the use of pyramids and participation in management.