A shareholder or stockholder is an individual or company (including a corporation), that legally owns one or more shares of stock in a joint stock company. Companies listed at the stock market strive to enhance shareholder value. Stockholders are granted special privileges depending on the class of stock, including the right to vote (usually one vote per share owned) on matters such as elections to the board of directors, the right to share in distributions of the company's income, the right to purchase new shares issued by the company, and the right to a company's assets during a liquidation of the company. However, stockholder's rights to a company's assets are subordinate to the rights of the company's creditors. This means that stockholders typically receive nothing if a company is liquidated after bankruptcy, although a stock may have value after a bankruptcy if there is the possibility that the debts of the company will be restructured.
Stockholders or shareholders are considered by some to be a partial subset of stakeholders, which may include anyone who has a direct or indirect equity interest in the business entity or someone with even a non-pecuniary interest in a non-profit organization.
For example, in California, majority shareholders of closely held corporations have a duty to not destroy the value of the shares held by minority shareholders.
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