A company (or corporation) is a legal entity chartered by the state for a particular purpose. Sometimes called a "fictional person" a company enjoys many of the rights and responsibilities of individual citizens such as the ability to own property, sign binding contracts, pay taxes, and otherwise participate in society. Typically a corporation has governed by a board of directors which in the case of for-profit corporations has a fiducial duty to look after the interests of the shareholders.
The main advantages of the corporate structure are its ability to shield its owners from personal liability and its perpetual nature which allows the assets and structure of the corporation to survive any of its members. Early corporations, such as the Dutch East India Company were specifically formed by governments to undertake tasks which were too risky or too expensive for individuals or even the governments themselves, and economic historian Kenneth Pomeranz argues that the need to perform pseudo-governmental operations such as the waging of war is the reason this economic structure developed in Europe and not in China or the Middle East.
In modern economic systems, the corporate form of governance is commonly used for a wide variety of business and non-profit activities.
In the United States there are several corporate forms; here's a non-exhaustive list:
S-Corp - Commonly used by small proprietors, the S-Corp pays no corporate taxes, but instead passes all profits and losses directly to its owners (who pay income taxes). Various restrictions exist on who can own an S-Corp, including a prohibition on non-US citizens and other corporations. Related topics: Sole Proprietorship, Partnership
C-Corp - Most common form of corporation, the C-Corp has few ownership restrictions and must pay corporate taxes. A C-Corp is managed by a board of directors usually elected by the owners of the company's common stock in proportion to their ownership of the company, and is managed by a CEO who is hired by the board and who may or may not have any ownership interest in the company. Related topics: Preferred Stock, Corporate Governance, By-laws, Delaware Corporation, Corporate Law, Stock Certificates
Limited Liability Corporation - This is a hybrid between a Partnership and a corporation. In this structure, the entity is owned by one general partner, which may be a corporation or individual, and up to 99 limited partners. The limited partners enjoy the limited liability common to corporations and may be corporations themselves.
American corporations are typically chartered in Delaware.
Company is also a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by George Furth. It concerns the relationship between Robert, a single man who is celebrating his 35th birthday, and the five married couples who are his best friends. Unlike most musicals which follow a clearly delineated plot, Company is comprised of short scenes in no particular chronological order, all of them apparently taking place in Robert’s memory at a single moment during his surprise birthday party. Among the memorable songs in the show are the title song, “The Little Things You Do Together,” “Another Hundred People,” “Getting Married Today,” “The Ladies Who Lunch,” and “Being Alive.”
"Company" opened on Broadway at the Alvin Theatre on April 26, 1970 and starred Dean Jones, Barbara Barrie, Charles Kimbrough, and Elaine Stritch. It was the first of several successful collaborations between Sondheim and director Harold Prince. It went on to win the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best Musical.