Recent “hostile takeover” attempt on Cato Institute may not be so hostile

When non-profits issue stock, and how it applies to the Cato chronicles

Over the years I’ve gotten used to the question, “Who owns C-SPAN?” My answer evolved into a mini lesson in non-profit corporation law: “Nobody owns C-SPAN—it is a non-profit, nonstock District of Columbia corporation. If you insist that there be an ‘owner,’ I guess it would be the people of Washington, D.C., but that amounts to a legal fiction. The cable television industry created C-SPAN, and a board of cable executives manages it from around the country.”

I wasn’t always that pedantic in answering, but I made the point that you can’t “own” a non-profit company. Some people are a bit surprised when they first hear it, but they tend to quickly understand that, of course, a “non-profit” company is not supposed to make money for anyone, so why would there ever be an “owner” of, say, a controlling interest in the local food bank? And, how would you “own” it if there was no stock to buy? The lesson is learned and becomes an obvious fact.


Bruce D. Collins

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