Book Announcement: The Public Company Transformed

Book Announcement: The Public Company Transformed

March 11 2019

For decades, the public company has played a dominant role in the American economy. Since the middle of the 20th century, the nature of the public company has changed considerably. The transformation has been a fascinating one, marked by scandals, political controversy, wide swings in investor and public sentiment, mismanagement, entrepreneurial verve, noisy corporate "raiders" and various other larger-than-life personalities. Nevertheless, amidst a voluminous literature on corporations, a systematic historical analysis of the changes that have occurred is lacking. 

The Public Company Transformed  by Prof. Brian Cheffins (2018) correspondingly analyzes how the public company has been recast from the mid-20th century through to the present day, with particular emphasis on senior corporate executives and the constraints affecting the choices available to them. The chronological point of departure is the managerial capitalism era, which prevailed in large American corporations following World War II. The book explores managerial capitalism's rise, its 1950s and 1960s heyday, and its fall in the 1970s and 1980s. It describes the American public companies and executives that enjoyed prosperity during the 1990s, and the reversal of fortunes in the 2000s precipitated by corporate scandals and the financial crisis of 2008. 

The book also considers the regulation of public companies in detail, and discusses developments in shareholder activism, company boards, chief executives, and concerns about oligopoly. The volume concludes by offering conjectures on the future of the public corporation, and suggests that predictions of the demise of the public company have been exaggerated.


Author: Prof. Brian Cheffins (Faculty of Law, Cambridge University)

Title: The Public Company Transformed (2018)

Oxford University Press (available here)

30% Discount code : ALAUTHC4

Introductory chapter available online (free) on SSRN at 

The book:

  • Shows how historical trends relate to hotly debated issues regarding today's public company
  • Includes valuable context for those interested in how public companies are governed and financed
  • Provides the first detailed historical treatment of the American public company
  • Looks to the future of the public company, as well as the role of boards, shareholders, and CEOs


About the Author:

Brian R. Cheffins has been since 1998 the S.J. Berwin Professor of Corporate Law at Cambridge University. He began his academic career at the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Law, where he taught from 1986 to 1997. Professor Cheffins has held visiting appointments at Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Oxford and Stanford.  He was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 2002, was awarded a Harvard Business School business history fellowship in 2014 and received a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship in 2015.  His primary research interests are corporate governance, corporate law and business history. He has held visiting appointments at Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, the University of British Columbia and the University of Western Ontario.

Professor Cheffins is the author of Company Law: Theory, Structure and Operation (Oxford, 1997), The Trajectory of (Corporate Law) Scholarship (Cambridge, 2004) and Corporate Ownership and Control: British Business Transformed (Oxford, 2008).  He was the editor of The History of Modern US Corporate Governance (Edward Elgar, 2011). Professor Cheffins has written widely in the areas of corporate law, corporate governance and business history.