December 16, 2014

The Curious Concept of Ownership: Gary Laitner in Family Capital on the Changing Face of Corporate Ownership

Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of the world's largest furniture retailer, IKEA, took issue with a Swiss magazine after the publication claimed he was the wealthiest person in Switzerland. Due to IKEA's complex ownership structure, Kamprad claimed that the magazine had exaggerated how wealthy he really is.

Gary Laitner, partner in Faegre Baker Daniels' London office, told Family Capital that Kamprad's assertion that he's not as rich as the press claims him to be brings up the question of "legal ownership" versus the "cultural ownership" of a company. Laitner said that global retailers like IKEA tend to prefer a cultural ownership model to avoid pinning the brand to a specific person. "In a cultural sense, nobody quite knows where ownership and control lies," Laitner said.

He said the concept of ownership can vary depending on the industry or even the region of a particular country. He noted that in the financial powerhouse of London, it's common to view a business as an entity to be bought and sold. Head north to the Midlands where the economy has historically been based on manufacturing, and the idea of ownership begins to change. "People take a longer-term view of investment and profitability," said Laitner. The meaning of "family ownership" - the concept that "I own it, but it is not mine to sell," as Laitner put it - is making a comeback.

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