Minority owners can make difference in firm
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Jack Buncher's decision to turn over his company to the Buncher Foundation and funds benefiting five nonprofits introduces an element of the unknown into governance of Strip District-based Buncher Co.
Despite their ownership ties through the funds, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Foundation and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee won't be telling the company where to build buildings, Tom Balestrieri, company president and CEO, said.
"Shareholders vote and approve the board of directors. ... That doesn't trickle down to, 'you're going to build a building in the Strip or you're not going to build a building in the Strip,' " he said.
However, Aaron Dorfman, executive director of the Committee for Responsive Philanthropy in Washington, D.C., said shareholders may exercise their will by removing company board members who displease them. The nonprofits may have a responsibility to exert their influence if the company were to act in a way that they considered harmful to the community or counter to their charitable purpose.
Mr. Dorfman said some nonprofit shareholders in public companies have used minority ownership interests to advocate improved corporate environmental and labor policies.
Dayton, Ohio, attorney Sam Warwar and Mark Debinski, director of the Center for Closely Held Firms at Loyola University Maryland and president of the Bluewater Advisory business consulting firm in Baltimore, agreed that minority shareholders in private companies have the potential to rock the boat.
If enough of the minority shareholders get together, "it's not rock the boat; it's drive the boat," Mr. Warwar said.
First Published February 3, 2013 12:00 am