Stakeholder vs Shareholder
Markem, now Markem-Imaje, experienced a lot of change both socially and economically when the Putnam family sold the company to Dover in 2006. Prior to its sale to Dover, Markem was a family-owned private company well known in Keene, New Hampshire. The atmosphere of the workplace was familial. People enjoyed working there and everyone knew everybody. Markem was a stakeholder company. Shareholders are stakeholders but stakeholders are not necessarily shareholders. Stakeholders are the employees, customers, and suppliers whose wellbeing is tied to the company (please see figure above). Markem shares were privately owned by the Putnam family. The Putnam family, living in Keene, had a large, philanthropic impact on the town. Having a successful company such as Markem, created jobs for many local people. It also allowed for many community outreaches such as donating to the campaign for the new science center at Keene State College. Success at Markem was beneficial to both the company and the community.
When Markem was sold to Dover in 2006, the relationship between the firm and the community changed. Now publicly owned and merged with a French company, Imaje, the familial feeling was diminished. The company’s shares were no longer Markem shares and were now Dover shares. Stakeholders took the backseat to shareholders. Now that the shares were open to the public, more people were able to purchase them. 86% of Dover’s shares are held by institutional investors such as Vanguard or Blackrock. The shareholders had ownership of the company and make money when the company is making money. This shareholder money comes from the part-owners owning stock in the company. The idea of stocks is that when you buy a stock, it can gain or lose value when the company’s success changes. Because Markem was no longer a community company, community outreach was less important because the new owners had little to no connection with the town of Keene. When a company is owned by a distant corporation, ties between people are more impersonal and it is clear that employees miss the personal connection once seen in the company. Unfortunately, many companies in Keene have experienced this. What effect will distant corporate ownership have on the community of Keene? Only time will tell.