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30 Sep 2020

Cade Metz & Erin Griffith, New York Times

Palantir shares go up in Wall Street debut

Palantir Technologies, a company that helps government agencies analyze vast amounts of digital data, saw its shares jump in its Wall Street debut on Wednesday in a sign of continued investor excitement for money-losing software companies.

The company’s shares began trading at $10 on the New York Stock Exchange, a 38 percent increase from a “reference price” of $7.25 set Tuesday evening, and closed the day at $9.50. ... Investors embraced Palantir despite its inability to turn a profit and the many controversies swirling around it. Among them is the highly unusual way Palantir has kept most of its corporate voting power in the hands of three founders, including Peter Thiel, a venture capital investor and member of Facebook’s board.

... Mr. Thiel is the company’s largest individual stockholder, owning just over 15 percent, followed by Mr. Karp’s 5 percent and Mr. Cohen’s 2 percent. The company’s structure places an enormous amount of voting power in their hands. Holding special Class F founder shares, the three will retain nearly 50 percent of the voting power in perpetuity, even after selling most of these shares.

“We have seen something similar with companies like Google and Facebook, but this is a far more extreme way of consolidating control in the hands of the founders,” said Anita Dorett, associate program director with the Investor Alliance for Human Rights, an organization that also alerts financial investors to other business risks, not just threats to human rights.