Shareholders are the owners of a corporation, and they purchase stocks because they want to earn a good return on their investment without undue risk exposure. In most cases, shareholders elect directors, who then hire managers to run the corporation on a day-to-day basis. Because managers are supposed to be working on behalf of shareholders, it follows that they should pursue policies that enhance shareholder value. Consequently, throughout this book we operate on the assumption that management's primary objective is stockholder wealth maximization, which translates into maximizing the price of the firm's common stock. Firms do, of course, have other objectives— in particular, the managers who make the actual decisions are interested in their own personal satisfaction, in their employees' welfare, and in the good of the community and of society at large. Still, for the reasons set forth in the following sections, stock price maximization is the most important objective for most corporations.
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