Mutuals regain recognition as form of business ownership

By David Bicknell

The rebirth and acceptance of mutuals as a form of business ownership has been recognised in an article by Charles Batchelor in the Financial Times published yesterday.

In a piece headlined “Different kinds of company ownership are gaining in popularity” as part of a special report ‘The Future of the Company’, Batchelor listed mutuals alongside family businesses, publicly quoted joint-stock companies and sole traders and partnerships as forms of ownership.  

On mutuals, Batchelor said this:

“Mutuals, represented mainly by building societies in the UK, were a popular form of ownership in previous years, although their numbers have shrunk dramatically as many societies have demutualised in recent decades. One mutual that is thriving, however, is John Lewis, the owner of the John Lewis chain of department stores as well as Waitrose, the upmarket grocery store. The employee-owned company has been extremely successful in weathering the retail downturn that has affected the rest of the UK high street, and in the process has shown that mutuals do, perhaps, have a place in the future.”

Admittedly for those already in or in the process of creating mutuals and social enterprises, it may not mean much, but it is perhaps a sign of the times to see the prospective growing role of mutuals specifically recognised by the FT in this way.

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