Here’s a thought experiment: How would Pinterest or Peloton be doing today if they weren’t controlled by their co-founders? Both companies appear to be in disarray—Pinterest is losing users and lately a string of executives, as The Information scooped today. Peloton’s challenges…well, let’s just say they’ve been well chronicled. Both companies need new management. Yet forcing change is practically impossible because in both cases the founder-CEOs own a special class of shares that give them close to 40% of the votes despite only owning between 5% and 7% of the total shares.
An old problem, you might say? Well, yes and no. Dual-class share structures, as they’re known, have been around for years. Moguls like Rupert Murdoch and Sumner Redstone used them to retain control of their media empires as they expanded. They weren’t so common in tech until the past 20 years. Neither Microsoft nor Apple nor Amazon has them. But Alphabet and Meta Platforms do—as well as many of the tech companies that have gone public in the past 18 months, including DoorDash, Airbnb, Robinhood, BuzzFeed and Coinbase.