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By The Wyoming LLC Attorney Team

Mar 05, 2024

LLC Ownership: Private vs. Public

In the world of business and entrepreneurship, the way a company is structured plays a pivotal role in its operations, growth potential, and how it interacts with investors. Among the myriad of business structures, Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) and Private Limited Companies are common choices for many entrepreneurs due to their inherent benefits. However, making an informed decision requires an understanding of their differences, advantages, disadvantages, and potential for transformation, especially when considering the shift to a public entity.

Case Study - From Local Brew to Nationwide Success: The Business Transformation Journey of Hometown Hops

In a small town, a craft brewery known as "Hometown Hops" emerged. Initially structured as an LLC, ownership was shared amongst the brewery's three founders. With its growing popularity, the owners sought to broaden their operations. They merged with two other local breweries, creating a larger LLC, and leveraged shared resources to amplify their combined market impact.

In time, they opted to transform Hometown Hops into a C Corporation, aiming to draw in a larger pool of investors. The transformation was successful, leading to the decision to take the company public. The ensuing public offering resonated strongly with the market, allowing Hometown Hops to prosper. What began as a local brew had become a national favorite amongst beer enthusiasts.

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Contrasting LLCs and Private Limited Companies

  • Firmness in Structure: A key factor in LLC ownership is the flexibility of structure, which is one of the core differences when contrasting LLCs with private limited companies. An LLC allows owners to draft their own operating agreements, providing a malleable structure compared to the more rigid structure of private limited companies.
  • Profit Distribution Mechanisms: In terms of profit distribution, LLC ownership offers the flexibility to distribute profits amongst its members as they see fit. Private limited companies, however, must adhere to the proportion of shares owned by each shareholder.
  • Tax Obligations: The tax obligations of LLC ownership are pass-through, meaning the company's income taxes are passed onto the individual members. Private limited companies are separate legal entities, which means they pay corporation tax on their profits.
  • Lifespan: The lifespan of an LLC is often tied to LLC ownership. If a member leaves or passes away, it can impact the existence of the LLC, unlike private limited companies, which have perpetual existence.

Pros of Operating a Private Limited Company:

Operating a private limited company has a host of advantages. Paramount among these is limited liability, which protects shareholders' personal assets from business debts. Furthermore, these companies enjoy perpetual existence, offering stability irrespective of changes in ownership. They also present a professional image, which can inspire trust among clients and suppliers. Additionally, the structured setup aids in securing external funding, an essential factor for business growth and expansion.

Cons of Running a Private Limited Company:

Despite the advantages, running a private limited company does pose some challenges. The increased paperwork and stringent regulatory compliance can be burdensome. The financial information is publicly accessible, limiting the company's privacy. Additionally, share transfer restrictions might deter potential investors, hampering capital raising opportunities. Finally, the process of winding up such a company is often lengthy and complicated, which can be a deterrent for those seeking an easy exit strategy.

The Upsides of an LLC:

An LLC, or a Limited Liability Company, offers many advantages. Primarily, the protection of personal assets from business liabilities provides security to members. The flexibility in management structures and decision-making processes caters to a diverse range of businesses. Also, the pass-through taxation structure simplifies the tax filing process and often results in fewer tax obligations. Furthermore, there's no limit on the number of owners, allowing for an expansive and versatile ownership group.

The Downsides of an LLC:

While the flexibility and personal liability protection of an LLC are enticing, they are counterbalanced by some drawbacks. Self-employment taxes can be higher for members as profits are typically distributed directly to them, taxed as personal income. Raising capital can also be challenging, as some investors may prefer the familiar structure of corporations. Further, the LLC's existence is usually tied to its owners, leading to potential uncertainties regarding its longevity. Changes in membership or the death of a member may dissolve the LLC unless there are provisions in the operating agreement to maintain continuity.

Understanding Publicly Listed LLCs:

A publicly listed LLC, or Limited Liability Company, is one where the shares of the company are traded on a public stock exchange. The transition to a publicly listed status can significantly broaden the pool of potential investors, opening up avenues for substantial capital influx. It involves a shift in the LLC ownership structure, introducing a level of public ownership.

However, this shift also brings additional regulatory compliance, including stringent reporting and transparency requirements to protect the interests of public shareholders. This public visibility can significantly affect how the LLC conducts its business.

Other Options Besides Publicly Listed LLCs:

LLC Consolidation is an appealing alternative for business owners managing multiple LLCs. By merging these entities into a single LLC, they can streamline operations and reduce administrative overhead, such as tax filings and annual reports. It can also foster business growth and boost operational efficiency by enabling better resource management and eliminating redundancies.

Transforming an LLC into a S or C Corporation is another viable option. This change can attract more investors, given that the corporate structure is well-recognized and generally trusted by investment communities. It also opens the door for equity financing and offers the possibility of a public listing, which can significantly bolster capital.

Lastly, liquidating an LLC's assets to a Public Corporation provides an effective exit strategy for LLC members. This entails selling off the company's assets to a publicly traded corporation, which can deliver a quick return on investment and relieve members from the ongoing responsibilities of running the business. It's a strategy that requires careful planning and execution but can be beneficial in the right circumstances.

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The Scenario when an LLC Becomes Public:

When an LLC decides to go public, it undergoes a significant transformation. The company has to prepare for an Initial Public Offering (IPO), involving extensive audits, regulatory compliance, and investment marketing. This step facilitates capital infusion but also invites public scrutiny and transparency.

Differences Between Private and Public LLCs:

Private and public LLCs vary primarily in ownership and investment accessibility. A private LLC is owned by a select group of members with typically limited opportunities for outside investors. In contrast, a public LLC, or a publicly traded LLC, extends ownership to the public. Shares can be bought and sold on an open market, attracting a wider range of investors, but this also necessitates higher regulatory compliance and public disclosure.

The Proprietorship of a Publicly Listed Limited Liability Corporation:

Ownership in a publicly listed LLC is broadly distributed. Any individual or entity that purchases shares of the LLC on the open market becomes an owner. Their level of ownership corresponds to the number of shares they hold. This differs significantly from private LLCs, where ownership is typically confined to a select group. The broad proprietorship in a publicly listed LLC enhances capital raising capabilities but also necessitates greater transparency and regulation.


The journey from a private LLC to a public corporation can be an intricate and significant process, but it often paves the way for accelerated growth and capital infusion. The choice between an LLC, a private limited company, or transitioning to a publicly traded entity depends on various factors such as the business's size, its growth trajectory, and the owners' long-term vision.

By understanding the nuances of each structure, business owners can make strategic decisions that ensure both the stability and prosperity of their enterprises. If you have any questions about structuring your company, please complete the contact form or call +1 (307) 683-0983 to speak with one of our experienced paralegals.