51% Is Absolute Power
Owning 51% of a company's stock gives you complete power over that company.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-05-25 08:57:20 sponsor: Dragonmouth edited by: Statzkeen (last reply: 2014-08-11 15:06:05)

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In fiction, owning the controlling interest of a company means that your commands are unquestionable. The controlling interest is almost always stated to be 51% of voting stock, although the trope still applies even if the exact percent isn't stated, or it's some other number greater than 50% that somehow counts just as much as having 100%.

In Real Life, owning 51% of a company does not give one absolute power over it. Remember that 49% of stockholders are partial owners of the company and retain certain rights.


Examples:

Anime & Manga
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh!, Seto Kaiba is given two percent of the shares to his stepfather's company Kaiba Corp, but has to use them to make 100 times their worth within a year's time. Seto does this by buying 51% of a company and threatening to close it and put everyone out of work unless the original owner buys it back for five times it value, which he agrees to for the sake of the employees. It's implied Seto repeats this with other companies to work up the needed money to please his stepfather. He later takes over Kaiba Corp itself with the same strategy.

Comic Books
  • In B.P.R.D.: The Black Flame, Landis Pope calmly walks into the boardroom of Zinco Corperation in a suit of black armour with frog monsters in tow, tells the members that he owns 51% of the company and fires them all with little explanation. He then gets the R&D department to experiment in controlling the frog monsters as part of his plan to gain control of Katha-Hem.
  • In the The Simpsons comic, "To Heir is Homer", Homer ends up being bequeathed 51% of the shares in Duff Brewery by the will of the previous owner, Sam Duff, with Montgomery Burns controlling the other 49%. He ends up driving the company into the ground with idiotic decisions and is forced to sell the shares to Burns.

Film
  • Peter LaFleur in Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story buys Globo Gym's controlling stake using the $5 million his team won. He is then able to totally remodel the gym while the original majority shareholder, White Goodman eats himself back to into obesity.
  • Averted in Iron Man 1. While Tony has the controlling share in Stark Industries, Obadiah points out that the board still has rights and was able to file an injunction against Tony when he shut down the company's weapons program.
  • In George Cukor's Let's Make Love, Welch buys the 51% of the theater company and when Dumas's going to be fired, he says to the director:
    Welch: Your 49 percent wants him out of the show but my 51 wants him in, so he stays in.
  • In Mr. Deeds, Chuck singlehandedly votes to sell off Blake Media, putting thousands of employees out of work.
  • In the Richie Rich movie, Richie gains control of his parents' company after their apparent deaths due to owning 51% of the company's stock.
  • In Scrooge (1951), Scrooge and Marley obtain their wealth by offering to cover the expenses of their owner's embezzlement scandal in return for the right to buy up to 51% of the company's shares. Naturally this gives them absolute power over the day-to-day business of the company.

Literature
  • In Terry Pratchett's Making Money, Moist von Lipwig controls the Royal Bank of Ankh-Morpork and the Royal Mint through the combination of the shares left to him by the deceased Topsy Lavish (50%) and shares owned by the little doggie that Moist inherited from her (Mr Fusspot, who owns the strategically vital 1% and is therefore the most important dog in Ankh-Morpork). The other members of the board want the dog dead; the Guild of Assassins have signalled to Moist von Lipwig that should the dog die, he is next...

Live-Action TV
  • In Le comte de Monte Cristo, a French miniseries adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo, the count buys fifty one percent of a bank's shares so he could issue himself infinite letters of credit. Granted, he was good for it.
  • Leverage: In "The Snow Job", the team tricks the mark's Idle Rich son to sign over 51% of their company and then proceed to give back the homes that they had tricked people out of. The mark insists they will be able to get the company back, but the team tipped the police off to his violation of the RICO act earlier in the episode and he is arrested before he can do anything to stop the team dismantling the business.
  • This comes up in an episode of Shark Tank where an potential entrepreneur had to choose between an investor who offered her 49% percent ownership of her product and another who offered 50%. She ended up choosing the latter.

Video Games
  • Gex's mother buys 51 percent ownership in NASA using the money inherited from Gex's great-uncle, fires everyone, sells the rockets to third world countries, and turns Mission Control into "Space Monkeys", a Suck E. Cheese's featuring robotic dancing chimps wearing spacesuits.
  • Monty Python's The Meaning of Life the videogame: You have to find stock shares of the Very Big Corporation Of America totalling 51%; then you can take the building (a clip from "Crimson Permanant Assurance" plays).
  • The "Fruity Business" mission in Tropico 4 has you working to oust the CEO of Fruitas LTD, a company based on United Fruit Company, the one who gave us the term Banana Republic. To achieve this, El Presidente has to own 51% of the shares and he does this by flooding the market with fruit to lower the price of the shares enough to buy. To get the last 1%, Presidente even has to hire some discount Chinese ninjas to retrieve them from a heavily-guarded fortress in Tibet.

Western Animation
  • Futurama
    • In the episode "Future Stock", That Guy manages to get controlling interest in Planet Express from Zoidberg. For a sandwich.
    Leela: Zoidberg owned 51% of the company?
    Hermes: The shares were worthless and he kept asking for toilet paper!
    • The plot of videogame starts when the Professor sells Planet Express to Mom, as it had been losing money for years due to mismanagement. The buyout gives Mom ownership of more than fifty percent of Earth, allowing her to become the supreme ruler of Earth. She then enslaves humanity and starts converting Earth into a giant warship.
  • In the Hey Arnold! movie, Big Bob Pataki initially goes along with Mr. Scheck's plan to bulldoze Arnold's neighborhood and replace it with a mall because he was promised that one of the stores contained therein would be his largest-ever beeper emporium. Later on, however, he reads the fine print of the contract and discovers that in exchange for said beeper emporium, Scheck gets 51% of the shares in his company. Cue one Heel-Face Turn.

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