Investing Rulebook

Closed Corporation: Definition, Benefits, Examples

The Fascinating World of Closed Corporations

In the vast landscape of business entities, closed corporations stand out as an intriguing and often misunderstood breed. While their name might conjure up images of secrecy and exclusivity, closed corporations offer unique advantages and challenges for those willing to delve into their intricacies.

In this article, we will explore the definition, characteristics, benefits, and challenges of closed corporations. We will also compare them to their more widely known counterparts, publicly traded companies.

So, join us on this journey of discovery as we unravel the mysteries and unveil the truths behind closed corporations.

Definition and Characteristics

Closed corporations, also known as privately held corporations, are business entities with a limited number of shareholders. Unlike publicly traded companies, closed corporations typically have a small group of investors who hold shares in the company.

This select group of shareholders often consists of founders, family members, or long-term employees who have a stake in the company’s success. One defining characteristic of closed corporations is the limited number of shareholders.

This exclusivity provides a closer-knit community and allows for greater control over business decisions. Unlike publicly traded companies that are subject to the whims of the stock market and external shareholders, closed corporations can operate with more flexibility and agility.

Benefits and Challenges

The flexibility offered by closed corporations is one of their most significant benefits. Decision-making processes are expedited due to the smaller number of stakeholders involved.

This lean structure allows closed corporations to seize opportunities quickly and adapt to changing market conditions without the bureaucratic constraints often associated with publicly traded companies. However, flexibility does not come without its challenges.

Closed corporations face fewer reporting requirements compared to their publicly traded counterparts. While this may seem liberating, it can also hinder growth and development.

Limited reporting can hamper a company’s ability to attract potential investors, making it challenging to secure additional capital for expansion. Moreover, closed corporations may face pressure from shareholders seeking to maintain a steady stream of profits or dividends, which can impede long-term strategic planning.

Reporting and Transparency

When comparing closed corporations to publicly traded companies, one of the key differences lies in reporting and transparency requirements. Publicly traded companies are subject to significant reporting burdens, with stringent regulations dictating the frequency and detail of financial statements.

This level of transparency aims to protect investors and ensure fair trading practices. While this may seem burdensome, it provides potential investors with a comprehensive understanding of the company’s financial health, enabling informed decision-making.

On the other hand, closed corporations have more flexibility in their reporting obligations. They can choose whether to disclose financial information and to what extent.

While this may offer a sense of privacy and independence, it can also hinder a closed corporation’s ability to attract new investors. Potential investors may be reluctant to provide capital without a full understanding of the company’s financial performance and prospects.

Consequently, closed corporations must strike a delicate balance between privacy and transparency to maintain investor confidence and attract additional funding opportunities.

Fundraising and Ownership

Closed corporations and publicly traded companies differ significantly in their approach to fundraising and ownership. For closed corporations, the primary avenues for raising capital are bank loans, equity funding from existing shareholders, and selling shares to a limited number of investors.

These methods allow for greater control over ownership and decision-making, as the pool of shareholders remains relatively small and exclusive. In contrast, publicly traded companies have the option to issue shares to a wide range of investors through initial public offerings (IPOs) or bond offerings.

This expansive ownership structure empowers publicly traded companies to raise substantial amounts of capital, facilitating business expansion and investment opportunities. However, this broader ownership base also means that decision-making power is dispersed among a larger group of shareholders, potentially diluting control for the company’s founders and early investors.


In the intricate realm of corporate entities, closed corporations offer distinctive advantages and challenges. Their limited number of shareholders provides flexibility and agility, allowing for quick decision-making and adaptability.

However, closed corporations face hurdles in attracting external investments and managing shareholder expectations. By contrast, publicly traded companies face stricter reporting and transparency requirements but have greater access to capital through a diverse ownership structure.

Understanding the intricacies of closed corporations and their differences from publicly traded companies can help entrepreneurs and investors make informed decisions that align with their goals and values. Ultimately, both closed corporations and publicly traded companies play vital roles in the business landscape, contributing to innovation, economic growth, and employment opportunities.

So, whether you find yourself in the realm of closed corporations or publicly traded companies, it’s essential to grasp their unique characteristics and harness their potential for success. Largest U.S. Private Companies

When it comes to closed corporations, there are some noteworthy examples of the largest privately held companies in the United States.

These companies have carved a niche for themselves in their respective industries while maintaining the advantages of being closed corporations. Cargill, the Minneapolis-based agricultural conglomerate, is one such company.

As the largest privately held company in the United States, Cargill has a rich history dating back to 1865. With over 160,000 employees across 70 countries, Cargill boasts an impressive range of businesses, including trading and processing agricultural commodities, manufacturing food and ingredients, and providing risk management and financial solutions.

Despite its size and global operations, Cargill remains a closed corporation, with the descendants of the company’s founder, William W. Cargill, holding the majority of shares.

Koch Industries, another prominent closed corporation, is involved in a diverse array of industries, including energy, chemicals, and manufacturing. Started as an oil refining business by the Koch brothers, Charles and David, in 1940, Koch Industries has grown into one of the largest private companies in America.

With a focus on long-term investments and innovation, Koch Industries has successfully navigated the challenges of the ever-changing global business landscape while maintaining its status as a closed corporation. Publix, a supermarket chain based in Florida, is recognized as the largest employee-owned company in the United States.

With over 225,000 employees and more than 1,200 stores spread across seven states, Publix has become an esteemed name in the grocery retail industry. The company’s employee stock ownership program (ESOP) grants its workforce an opportunity to own shares in the company, establishing a unique and highly engaged ownership structure.

Mars Inc., known for its popular brands like M&M’s, Snickers, and Milky Way, is a family-owned closed corporation that has been delighting consumers for over a century. With a commitment to quality and innovation, Mars Inc.

has built a strong global presence in the confectionery, pet care, and food segments. The Mars family’s unwavering dedication to maintaining the company’s independence has allowed Mars Inc.

to forge its own path through the competitive landscape of the food industry. Ernst & Young (EY) and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are leading professional services firms that operate as closed corporations.

These companies provide auditing, tax advisory, and consulting services to clients worldwide. With top-tier clients and a commitment to professionalism and excellence, EY and PwC have established themselves as trusted advisors in the corporate world.

The partnership structures of these firms ensure that key decision-making lies with the partners, contributing to their agility and adaptability. SC Johnson, a global manufacturer of household cleaning and consumer products, has remained a family-owned closed corporation for over 135 years.

Known for brands like Windex, Glade, and Raid, SC Johnson prides itself on its commitment to sustainability and innovation. The company’s family-centric culture fosters a sense of long-term vision and dedication to the SC Johnson legacy.

The Hearst Corporation, a media and information conglomerate, is another example of a closed corporation with a storied history. Dating back to 1887, Hearst has grown into a multimedia powerhouse, owning newspapers, magazines, television channels, and digital platforms.

The Hearst family maintains control over the company, ensuring its continued success and influence in the ever-evolving media landscape. Chick-fil-A, the popular fast-food restaurant chain known for its chicken sandwiches, is a closed corporation owned by the Cathy family.

With a strong emphasis on customer service and community involvement, Chick-fil-A has become a beloved brand in the fast-food industry. The Cathy family’s commitment to their values and principles has played a significant role in shaping Chick-fil-A’s success.

Hobby Lobby, a retail chain specializing in arts and crafts supplies, is also a closed corporation. Founded by David Green in 1972, Hobby Lobby has grown into a national brand, with over 900 stores across the United States.

The Green family, known for their strong religious beliefs, has maintained tight control over the company, aligning its business practices with their values and convictions.

International Closed Corporations

Closed corporations are not limited to the United States; they can be found worldwide. Some prominent examples of international closed corporations include:

IKEA, the Swedish furniture retailer, is a classic example of a closed corporation.

Founded by Ingvar Kamprad in 1943, IKEA has revolutionized the furniture industry with its affordable, do-it-yourself concept. Despite its global reach and popularity, IKEA remains a privately held corporation, with the Kamprad family retaining control over the company.

ALDI, the German discount supermarket chain, is another international closed corporation. Known for its no-frills approach and emphasis on private label products, ALDI has established a strong presence in numerous countries, including the United States.

The ALDI brand is split between two distinct companies owned by two branches of the same family, ensuring each company’s autonomy and independent decision-making. Bosch, the German engineering and technology conglomerate, operates as a closed corporation.

Founded in 1886, Bosch is a globally recognized brand in various industries, including automotive, industrial technology, and consumer goods. The Bosch family has managed to retain control of the company, driving its ongoing innovation and success.

LEGO, the Danish toy company famous for its interlocking plastic bricks, is owned by the Kirk Kristiansen family. Since its founding in 1932, LEGO has become a beloved brand, capturing the imaginations of children and adults alike.

The family’s commitment to creativity and play has helped LEGO maintain its position as one of the most successful toy companies in the world.

Limited Access to Shares

Investing in closed companies can pose unique challenges compared to investing in publicly traded companies. One key challenge is limited access to shares.

Closed corporations typically have a smaller select group of shareholders, including insiders such as top managers, co-founders, and early investors. These individuals often retain control over the majority of shares, making it difficult for external investors to acquire ownership stakes.

Immediate family members of key stakeholders may also have access to shares, further limiting the market for potential investors. The limited availability of shares in closed corporations can be both a strength and a drawback.

On one hand, this exclusivity allows for closer-knit communities of shareholders who often have a long-term commitment to the success of the company. Access to shares may be restricted to those who have deep knowledge and understanding of the company’s operations and potential.

On the other hand, limited access to shares can be a barrier for new investors seeking opportunities. Potential investors may find it challenging to buy into closed corporations due to the restricted market for shares.

This exclusivity can limit the pool of investors and diminish the liquidity of shares, meaning it may be more challenging to buy or sell shares when desired.

Dividends and Double Taxation

Dividends play a crucial role in the return on investment for shareholders in closed corporations. When a closed corporation generates profits, it has the option to distribute these profits to shareholders in the form of dividends.

Shareholders can benefit from receiving regular income from their investment, depending on the company’s profitability and dividend policies. However, closed corporations can face a challenge when it comes to double taxation.

Double taxation occurs when the corporation pays taxes on its profits, and then shareholders pay taxes on the dividends received. This can create a potential disadvantage compared to other business structures, such as partnerships or limited liability companies (LLCs), where profits flow through to shareholders or members, avoiding the double taxation issue.

One solution that some closed corporations employ to address the issue of double taxation is to convert to an S corporation status. An S corporation is a tax designation that allows income, losses, and deductions to pass through to shareholders, thereby avoiding the double taxation associated with traditional closed corporations.

This flexibility in tax treatment can be beneficial for companies that want to retain the advantages of being a closed corporation while mitigating the potential drawbacks of double taxation. In conclusion, closed corporations offer unique characteristics, benefits, and challenges.

They allow for greater control over decision-making, flexibility, and long-term strategic planning. Additionally, they can be found in various industries worldwide, and despite limited access to shares, certain closed corporations have become powerhouses in their respective fields.

However, investing in closed companies may require navigating restricted markets and potentially facing the issue of double taxation. Understanding these nuances can empower investors to make informed decisions and capitalize on the opportunities presented by closed corporations.

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