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This chapter documents the evolution of ownership and control of firms around the world over a hundred year period from the beginning of the 20th century to today. It records the substantial changes that have taken place in the nature of stock markets and contrasts these with the persistent patterns of ownership that are observed in many countries around the world. In particular, it documents the growth in dispersion in ownership that took place in many countries from the early part of the 20th century. It reports that this took place in the absence of formal systems of investor protection but in the presence of institutional developments that facilitated the building of trust between investors and firms. Contrary to the view that concentrations of ownership necessarily undermine the operation of equity markets by exploiting minority interests, the chapter argues that in many countries they played a central role not just in exercising control but also in promoting relations between investors and firms that were central to the development of their stock markets. In particular, concentrations of ownership in the hands of families may have been a source of public as well as private benefits. The chapter concludes by looking at recent changes and argues that these reinforce the long-run patterns of the relative decline of the UK and US stock markets, the continued decline of family firms in the UK, the growth of private equity and the emergence of new forms of concentrated shareholdings.

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