Dig the New York Times story today about Walmart. According to the story by Lisa Lee, the Walton family has creeped over the 50 percent stock ownership line by arranging for the company to do stock buybacks. This article exposes, for all to see, the incompetence of the NY Times business team. Since when is 50% a significant goal line for "control" of a public company. Is there anyone out there who thinks that if the Walton family owned only 48.5 %, for example, that they would have some big difficulty lining up another 1.6 % of non-family members to exercise 50 % plus one voting majority?
Owning as little as 10 percent of a company is often sufficient to dominate the policy in most public corporations. The only practical difference between more than 50 percent and less than 50 percent that Lee can cite in her article is the fact that NYSE rules do not require a majority of outside directors. Wow! Owning only 49 percent puts the Waltons in the difficult position, according to Ms. Lee, of not controlling the board's directors. Is she kidding?
It is worth noting that there are no director changes announced or contemplated at Walmart as a result of the family crossing the magic 50 percent line. Once again, the Times does its readers a disservice by highlighting an irrelevancy as a matter of substance.