Market Insight | A family company
By Scott Grant
A quarter century ago, a woman named Thelma Howard passed away and left half of her estate, more than $5 million, to children’s charities in and for the County of Los Angeles. Thelma was not an heiress or an actress. She was a maid.
She served Walt Disney and his family for so long that she became part of the family. Many say she was the inspiration for the TV character Hazel. In any event, Walt Disney gave Thelma shares of Disney stock on Christmas and her birthday every year and the woman Walt Disney liked to call “the real life Mary Poppins” held those shares and let them grow. She believed in Disney. She was part of the family.
Every so often, someone will come along and tells me they want to invest in the company that makes Saran Wrap. Saran Wrap is great. You can use it for so many things: cooking, storing, freezing. I imagine everybody uses Saran Wrap some of the time. People look at the product and think, “This is something everyone uses” and they want to invest in the company that makes it.
They are always disappointed when I tell them, “You can’t.” Saran Wrap is made by SC Johnson. SC Johnson is the largest non-publicly traded company in the world. They do not sell shares of stock. In addition to Saran Wrap, SC Johnson makes a number of other popular household products including Drano, Off, Pledge, Glade, Raid, Windex and Ziploc.
SC Johnson is a great company with a number of great businesses. That and the fact that I cannot, just makes me want to invest in them even more. I bet you feel the same.
“What do you mean, I can’t invest? That’s almost un-American!” And to make matters worse, it isn’t that they do not have stock. They do. It is just that SC Johnson is a family owned company. All of the shares are held by the family. And now I bet you are wishing you were born into THAT family. Me too!
The SC Johnson story makes a good point. Would be investors sometimes look at the stocks as pieces of paper or three- and four-letter blips running across the bottom of a television screen. They are not. Stocks represent ownership, ownership of the underlying company. When picking a stock to invest in, be like Thelma and buy in for life. Pick a company that you would not mind owning forever. One that you would be happy to pass on to your children.
Scott A. Grant is President of Standfast Asset Management in Ponte Vedra Beach. He welcomes your comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.