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The Two Types

15 January, 2016 - 09:36

It is the business corporation proper that we focus on in this unit. There are two broad types of business corporations: publicly held (or public) and closely held (or close or private) corporations. Again, both types are private in the sense that they are not governmental.

The publicly held corporation is one in which stock is widely held or available for wide public distribution through such means as trading on a national or regional stock exchange. Its managers, if they are also owners of stock, usually constitute a small percentage of the total number of shareholders and hold a small amount of stock relative to the total shares outstanding. Few, if any, shareholders of public corporations know their fellow shareholders.

By contrast, the shareholders of the closely held corporation are fewer in number. Shares in a closely held corporation could be held by one person, and usually by no more than thirty. Shareholders of the closely held corporation often share family ties or have some other association that permits each to know the others.

Though most closely held corporations are small, no economic or legal reason prevents them from being large. Some are huge, having annual sales of several billion dollars each. Roughly 90 percent of US corporations are closely held.

The giant publicly held companies with more than $1 billion in assets and sales, with initials such as IBM and GE, constitute an exclusive group. Publicly held corporations outside this elite class fall into two broad (nonlegal) categories: those that are quoted on stock exchanges and those whose stock is too widely dispersed to be called closely held but is not traded on exchanges.


There are four major classifications of corporations: (1) nonprofit, (2) municipal, (3) professional, and (4) business. Business corporations are divided into two types, publicly held and closely held corporations.


  1. Why did professionals, such as doctors, lawyers, and accountants, wait so long to incorporate?
  2. Distinguish a publicly held corporation from a closely held one.
  3. Are most corporations in the US publicly or closely held? Are closely held corporations subject to different provisions than publicly held ones?