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Hunter Library
Research Guides
Western Carolina University


Your guide to interdisciplinary resources in the field of business

Is This Company Public or Private?

When researching a company, first determine if the company is publicly held or privately owned. The second step varies by need.

Large, publicly-held, American companies offer more data than small, privately owned, or international companies. Tips will be provided throughout the guide on how to deal with companies that fall in the “Less Information” column.

Public companies are owned by stockholders. Stocks can be bought and sold (traded) on an exchange such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) or NASDAQ.  

  • Information about public companies is easy to find as such companies are legally required to make their financial records available to investors.

Private companies may be owned by an individual, family, or a group of partners. Small companies are almost always private but private companies are not always small. Forbes Magazine produces an annual list of the largest privately-held companies in America.

  • Information about private companies can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to locate.

Public Company Information

Private Company Information