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Is it meaningful to talk about the ownership of companies?

Who owns a company? The answer is that no one does, any more than anyone owns the river Thames, the National Gallery, the streets of London, or the air we breathe. There are many different kinds of claims, contracts and obligations in modern economies, and only occasionally are these well described by the term ownership.

Let’s challenge our fixation on the principle of one share, one vote

The Savoy Group and Google both adopted share structures that give individuals disproprtionately greater voting rights than their diverse set of shareholders. It has worked well for these companies and their investors over the long run. Perhaps we should reopen the debate over share structures?

Rail privatisation has delivered improvements through accountability and autonomy

Both the leading candidates for the leadership of Britain’s opposition Labour party have now committed themselves to renationalising the country’s railways. But the state-owned British Rail was one if the most reviled institutions in the UK, and privatisation has delivered many relative benefits.

Drug companies are built in labs, not boardrooms

The history of ICI and the British pharmaceutical industry may provide some pointers to show how shareholders and policymakers should react to Pfizer’s bid for Astra Zeneca.

The Co-op’s mistake was to detach responsibility from power

The test of an organisational structure is not how it handles success but how it copes when things go wrong.

Being ethical in business is not as simple as ‘doing the right thing’

Ethics are about what to do when good behaviour and profitable business are not necessarily the same thing.

Why business loves capital markets, even if it doesn’t need capital

One of the paradoxes of modern business is that firms have never had so little need of capital or so much involvement with capital markets.

Lessons from the house that Lewis built

The British retailer John Lewis, owned by an employee trust and long a favourite of metropolitan women, has now become a favourite of their politician husbands.

Let’s talk about the market economy

Modern titans derive their authority and influence from their position in a hierarchy, not their ownership of capital.

Time for the Big Society to get down to the nitty-gritty

A small fraction of the ingenuity devoted to the construction of complex financial instruments that no one should want could advantageously be applied to the construction of less complex instruments that meet the needs of the Big Society.