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Company Research

Resources and search tips for researching companies.

Databases for Corporate Hierarchy

Corporate Hierarchy

Corporate families may have a complex multi-tiered structure with public and/or private subsidiaries and parents.  According to the SEC rules, public parents are required to disclose very limited information about their subsidiaries. As a result, financial information may be available at the parent level only.

Sources:  In addition to print directories and online databases mentioned here, annual reports (10-Ks) provide an overview of a corporate family and mergers and acquisitions activities.  Articles, news and company websites may be also used as sources of information on a corporate family structure.

Understanding the company hierarchy helps you:

  • determine parent/subsidiary relationships 
  • assess whether to search on the parent company to get the most information
  • identify different company names, ownership, products, and brands
  • keep track of M&A changes in a company ownership

None of the sources will provide a full company structure hierarchy. As a rule of thumb, use multiple sources and corroborate your findings.

Key Definitions

These terms are used in Dun & Bradstreet directories. Other sources may use their own definitions to describe relationships in a corporate family. Check Help in databases or introduction sections in print directories for definitions.

Parent - a business that owns more than 50% of another company's stock.

Ultimate Parent - the topmost company within the hierarchy of the entire organization.

Immediate or Direct Parent - the company to which a subsidiary directly reports.

Headquarters - a business establishment where the executive offices of the corporation are located. Implies existence of one or more branches reporting to it, under same name.

Branch - a secondary location of a business which reports to a headquarters. A branch never reports to another branch and always carries the parent name.

Division - a separate operating unit of a corporation. A division may have its own offices, but it is not incorporated nor does it issue stock. All divisions are also classified as branches. Divisions will often have an additional commonly known business name called a Trade Style used for advertising and/or buying purposes.

Single location - a business establishment with no branches reporting to it.  A single location may still be a parent and/or a subsidiary.

Affiliate Company - a company in which another firm holds an interest of less than 50% (also known as an associate company in the U.K.)

Subsidiary - a corporation in which more than 50% of its voting stock is owned by another company.  The subsidiary may have a different name than the controlling corporation.

Level 1 Subsidiary - reports to the ultimate parent company.

Level 2 Subsidiary - reports to a first level subsidiary company.

Holding Company - A parent corporation that owns enough voting stock in another corporation to control its board of directors (and, therefore, controls its policies and management). A holding company must own at least 80% of voting stock to get tax consolidation benefits, such as tax-free dividends. (Source: Investopedia)

Print Directories

UTSA Libraries no longer update these annual directories.  Use for historical research: