What Is the Difference Between Alphabet's GOOG vs. GOOGL?
GOOG and GOOGL are stock ticker symbols for Alphabet (the company formerly known as Google). The main difference between the GOOG and GOOGL stock ticker symbols is that GOOG shares have no voting rights, while GOOGL shares do.
The company created a new class of non-voting stock in April 2014 and issued a Class C share for each Class A share previously held by shareholders. Anyone who held A shares at the time of the split received an equal number of C-shares, but their voting power did not increase.1 The action preserved the majority control of founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. When companies go public, founders often lose control over time as additional share offerings and sales leave them in the minority.
Alphabet's founders are determined to remain in control of the company, a goal shared by other tech tycoons. Markets and investors can be short-sighted in their insistence on immediate results, even at the expense of long-term strategy. The stock split enabled Brin and Page to take advantage of public-market liquidity while retaining majority control of the company.2
- Alphabet, Google's parent company, has two listed share classes that use slightly different ticker symbols.
- GOOGL shares are its Class A shares, also known as common stock, which have the typical one-share-one-vote structure.
- GOOG shares are Class C shares that confer no voting rights.
- Because of their voting rights, A shares may trade at a premium to C shares; however, in reality the prices of the two are often quite close to one another.
- There is a third type of share, Class B shares, which are held by founders and insiders and confer 10 votes per share. Class B shares can't be publicly traded.
What’s the Difference Between GOOG and GOOGL?
GOOGL shares are categorized as Class A shares. Class A shares are known as common shares. They give investors an ownership stake and, typically, voting rights. They are the most common type of shares.
GOOG shares are the company's Class C shares. Class C shares give stockholders an ownership stake in the company, just like Class A shares, but unlike common shares, they do not confer voting rights on shareholders. As a result, these shares tend to trade at a modest discount to Class A shares. These Class C shares should not be confused with the type of C shares issued by some mutual funds.
A Summary of the Class Structures:
- Class A: Held by a regular investor with regular voting rights (GOOGL)
- Class B: Held by the founders, with 10 times the voting power of Class A shares
- Class C: No voting rights, typically held by employees and some Class A stockholders (GOOG)
Often, activist investors band together and accumulate shares to press companies into enacting shareholder-friendly initiatives that boost stock prices, such as cost-cutting, share buybacks, and special dividends. This process can become hostile, with activists engaging in public battles to win board seats and wrest control of the company from management. After issuing non-voting shares to retain majority control, Page and Brin need not worry about this possibility.
In 2017, S&P Dow Jones Indices announced it would no longer add companies with multiple share classes or limited shareholder rights to its most popular indexes, while grandfathering in those already included.4
Why Is GOOG More Than GOOGL?
Because A shares have more voting rights, and these rights have some value, they often trade at a slight premium. In reality, GOOG and GOOGL often trade for just around the same price. For example, on Aug. 1, 2022, GOOG shares opened at around $115.53 and GOOGL at $115.30.56 Sometimes, one share class will trade at a relative premium to the other, but due to arbitrage opportunities, these spreads will often close over time.
What Is the Difference Between GOOG and GOOGL?
The two different share classes (GOOG being Class C and GOOGL being Class A shares) are intended to preserve corporate control in the company by Google's founders and early investors after the company was reorganized as Alphabet Inc.
What Are Alphabet's Class B shares?
Alphabet also has a class of B shares that are only owned by insiders, and which do not trade on stock exchanges. The B shares are thus owned by Brin, Page, Schmidt, and a few other directors. Unlike A shares that confer one vote per share, shareholders of B shares receive 10 votes.
The Bottom Line
There’s definitely a difference between the price of the two types of Google shares that you can buy, though it is relatively small. If you feel that voting at the stockholders’ meeting is important to you, aim for the A shares.