Different Classes of Common Stock

We know the difference between preferred stock and common stock, but what is the difference between common stock A  and common stock B?

Some companies have different “classes” of common stock that vary based on how many votes are attached to them. So, for example, one share of Class A stock in a certain company might give you 10 votes per share, while one share of Class B stock in the same company might only give you one vote per share. And sometimes it is the case that a certain class of common stock will have no voting rights attached to it at all.

So why would some companies choose to do this? Because it’s an easy way for the primary owners of the company (e.g. the founders) to retain a great deal of control over the business. The company will typically issue the class of shares with the fewest number of votes attached to it to the public, while reserving the class with the largest number of votes for the owners. Of course, this isn’t always the best arrangement for the common shareholder, so if voting rights are important to you, you should probably think carefully before buying stock that is split into different classes.

How is this typically denoted?

When there is more than one class of stock, the classes are traditionally designated as Class A and Class B. Berkshire Hathaway (ticker: BRK), has two classes of stock. The different forms are represented by placing the letter behind the ticker symbol in a form like this: “BRKa, BRKb” or “BRK.A, BRK.B”.

Google’s stock class breakdown is as follows (note the conversion option):

Our Board of Directors has authorized two classes of common stock, Class A and Class B. At December 31, 2009, there were 6,000,000,000 and 3,000,000,000 shares authorized and there were 243,611,368 and 74,160,683 shares legally outstanding of Class A and Class B common stock.

The rights of the holders of Class A and Class B common stock are identical, except with respect to voting. Each share of Class A common stock is entitled to one vote per share. Each share of Class B common stock is entitled to 10 votes per share. Shares of Class B common stock may be converted at any time at the option of the stockholder and automatically convert upon sale or transfer to Class A common stock. We refer to Class A and Class B common stock as common stock throughout the notes to these financial statements, unless otherwise noted.


Investorguide.com, “Common Stock versus Preferred Stock, and Stock Classes Explained.”

Investopedia.com, “Stocks Basics: Different Types of Stocks

Wikinvest.com, “GOOG

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