Class A Shares: Definition, Types, and Advantages


Class A shares are a category of common stock that historically held more voting rights than Class B shares, although this can vary by company. These shares typically grant enhanced privileges to insiders and management, such as voting power, dividend priority, and liquidation preferences. They are often used to maintain control of a company’s leadership and protect against hostile takeovers. However, Class A shares can also be high-priced and less accessible to individual investors. This article explores the definition, types, and advantages of Class A shares.

Understanding Class A shares

Class A shares, a category of common stock, have long been associated with providing more voting rights than their Class B counterparts. While this tradition may vary from one company to another, it generally holds true. The rationale behind these shares is to confer greater control over the company to insiders, including senior management, C-level executives, and the board of directors.

If a company’s Class A shares carry a higher number of votes per share, this helps to safeguard the company from external investors gaining enough shares to take control, a scenario that could disrupt its operations.

Traditional Class A shares offer additional advantages to their holders, including priority in receiving dividends and preferential treatment in case of company liquidation. This means that if you own traditional Class A shares, you are among the first to receive dividend payments and liquidation proceeds.

Imagine a situation where a publicly traded company with outstanding debt is acquired by a larger entity. In this scenario, the debt holders are the first to be paid. Following that, holders of traditional Class A shares receive their share of the proceeds. Only after these payments are made do other shareholders receive any remaining funds.

It’s worth noting that some Class A shares have the added benefit of being convertible into multiple common or ordinary stock shares. This conversion can result in substantial financial gains for shareholders. For instance, if a CEO holds 100,000 Class A shares convertible into 500,000 common stock shares, and the company is sold for $50.00 per share, the CEO earns a significant windfall of $25,000,000 upon conversion and sale.

One key characteristic of traditional Class A shares is that they are not available for sale to the general public, nor can they be traded by the shareholders who hold them. This arrangement is designed to allow the management team and other key executives to concentrate on the company’s long-term objectives, undistracted by the potential conflicts of interest that could arise if these shares were freely tradable.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks to consider.

  • Enhanced voting rights
  • Priority in dividends
  • Liquidation preferences
  • Protection against hostile takeovers
  • Convertible options for higher gains
  • Not accessible to the general public
  • Restricted trading
  • May lead to potential agency problems

Types of Class A shares

Class A shares come in various forms, each with its unique features and purposes:

Traditional Class A shares

These shares are typically owned by insiders, providing them with enhanced voting rights and other privileges. Traditional Class A shares adhere to the historical concept of Class A shares.

Technology Class A shares

In the technology sector, Class A shares may be publicly owned and traded with one vote per share. However, insiders often control Class B shares, which carry ten times the voting power and do not trade on public exchanges. Class C shares in this arrangement are publicly owned and traded but lack voting power. This structure is commonly seen among technology companies.

Class A shares in this context still offer more voting rights compared to Class C shares, although Class B shares now hold the voting power traditionally associated with Class A.

High-priced Class A shares

High-priced Class A shares are theoretically available to the public but often prove inaccessible to individual investors due to their prohibitive prices. Instead of splitting the stock, companies may introduce Class B shares at a fraction of the price, although these come with significantly reduced voting power. Price and voting power do not necessarily correlate. For example, Class A shares might cost $3,000 each and provide 100 votes, while Class B shares could be priced at $120 with just one vote. Berkshire Hathaway’s share class structure exemplifies this pattern.

Expanding on Class A shares

Class A shares, though commonly associated with enhanced voting rights and privileges, have evolved over time. Companies have introduced various modifications to adapt to changing business environments and investor demands. Here, we explore some of the developments in Class A shares:

Class A shares with differential voting rights

In recent years, some companies have introduced Class A shares with differential voting rights. Unlike the traditional model where Class A shares hold the most significant voting power, these new structures may allocate different voting rights to various classes of shares. This approach allows companies to tailor their share structures to balance control while raising capital in public markets. For instance, one class of Class A shares may grant ten votes per share, while another class offers only one vote. Such flexibility can be advantageous in addressing the diverse needs of investors.

Specialized Class A Shares in tech companies

Technology giants like Alphabet (Google’s parent company) and Facebook (now Meta) have introduced specialized Class A shares designed to preserve the influence of their founders and early stakeholders. These tech companies often issue Class B shares with significantly more voting power than publicly traded Class A shares. This strategic move ensures that key decision-makers maintain control over the company’s direction, even as it goes public and faces the demands of external shareholders. Examining the specific share structures of tech industry leaders can provide valuable insights into the evolving landscape of Class A shares.

Considerations for investors

Investors interested in Class A shares must weigh various factors before purchasing or acquiring these securities. Here, we outline essential considerations to help you make informed investment decisions:

Accessibility and affordability

Not all Class A shares are readily accessible or affordable to individual investors. High-priced Class A shares, while offering attractive benefits, may be out of reach for those with limited capital. Investors should carefully assess their financial capacity and investment goals when considering Class A shares. Additionally, understanding whether a company’s Class A shares are publicly traded or restricted can impact your investment strategy.

Company-specific share structure

Each company’s Class A share structure can vary significantly. It’s crucial to delve into the specific bylaws and charter of the company to understand the rights and privileges associated with its Class A shares. Some companies may prioritize voting power, while others may focus on dividend preferences and liquidation rights. Analyzing the unique features of a company’s Class A shares is essential to align your investment strategy with your objectives.

In conclusion, Class A shares represent a distinct category of common stock known for their historical association with greater voting rights and enhanced privileges. While traditional Class A shares are typically reserved for insiders, companies may have different share structures. These shares are a strategic tool for maintaining control within a company and protecting against external takeovers. However, they may not be readily accessible or affordable for individual investors, and their benefits can vary from one company to another. Understanding the nuances of Class A shares is essential for anyone looking to invest in or work with publicly traded companies.

Frequently asked questions

What are class A shares?

Class A shares are a category of common stock traditionally associated with greater voting rights than Class B shares. They are typically used to maintain control of a company within the hands of insiders and management.

How do class A shares differ from class B shares?

The primary difference lies in voting rights. Class A shares historically grant more voting power to shareholders compared to Class B shares. Additionally, Class A shares often come with enhanced privileges such as dividend priority and liquidation preferences.

Can individual investors purchase class A shares?

While some class A shares may be publicly traded, others are not accessible to individual investors due to their high prices or restricted trading. Availability varies by company, so it’s essential to check specific details.

Why do companies create multiple classes of shares?

Companies often create multiple classes of shares to balance control and raise capital. By offering shares with different voting rights, they can maintain leadership control while allowing public investment. This structure helps protect against hostile takeovers.

What advantages do traditional class A shares offer?

Traditional class A shares typically provide priority in receiving dividends and preferential treatment in case of company liquidation. They are also often convertible into multiple common stock shares, potentially leading to substantial gains for shareholders.

Do class A shares always have higher voting rights?

No, voting rights can vary by company and share structure. While class A shares are traditionally associated with greater voting power, some companies issue class A shares with fewer voting rights, particularly in newer share structures.

What is the purpose of technology class A shares?

In the technology sector, class A shares are often designed to allow founders and early stakeholders to retain control even as the company goes public. These shares may carry fewer voting rights compared to other classes but help preserve decision-making power.

How do high-priced class A shares impact investors?

High-priced class A shares can be out of reach for individual investors due to their cost. Companies may introduce lower-priced class B shares, which offer reduced voting power. Investors should consider affordability and voting rights when deciding between classes.

Key takeaways

  • Class A shares historically provide greater voting rights.
  • Traditional Class A shares offer enhanced privileges like dividend priority and liquidation preferences.
  • They are often used to maintain control of a company within the hands of insiders.
  • Class A shares may not be accessible or affordable for individual investors.
  • Convertible Class A shares can lead to substantial gains for shareholders.
View Article Sources
  1. Mutual Fund Classes –
  2. Different Types of Shares – Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority
  3. Variation of class rights – Companies Act 2006 –