Colin Mayer – Shakespeare’s “As You Like It” Knockof
At first the merchant trading company established by royal charter to undertake voyages of discovery and promote commerce around the world.
Then the public corporation created by Acts of Parliament to engage in major public works and the building of canals and railways.
Then with the freedom of incorporation in the 19th century, the private corporation — the seedbed of the industrial revolution and the manufacturing corporation.
Next comes the service firm and the rise of the financial institution.
The fifth age is the transnational corporation putting a girdle around the world and running rings around national governments.
Last scene of all that ends this strange eventful history is the mindful corporation — sans machines, sans man, sans money, sans everything.
The last line is in reference to the rise the intangible corporation. How many corporations are there today that have no assets, no profits, and are worth billions? Companies like Whatapps comes to mind. According to a study by merchant bank Ocean Tomo on the makeup of public company balance sheets in the S&P 500 between 1975 and 2015, the figures showed that at the end of 2015, 84% of assets held by S&P 500 companies were intangible by nature, up from only 17% in 1975. Ocean Tomo calculates intangible assets simply “by subtracting the tangible book value from the market capitalization of a given company or index,” so the rise in intangibles since the 1970s is in part just a reflection of rising stock market valuations.