If you own a rental property, you can transfer it to a limited liability company (LLC). You may already have an LLC or need to start one, but either ...
How to Determine Who Owns an LLC
Updated on April 11, 2023
How to Determine Who Owns an LLC
When it comes to business leadership, titles are crucial. They carry real weight and meaning beyond the specific roles and responsibilities.
A limited liability company (LLC) is a popular business structure in part because it offers management flexibility. Yet one of the major steps when forming an LLC is determining ownership, as all owners, known as members, are usually listed in the articles of organization.
Whether you’ve formed your LLC and are concerned about being publicly identified as the owner, or you want to Google the owner of an LLC you’re interested in partnering with, you’ve come to the right place.
This guide explains why LLC ownership information can be helpful, how to find it and whether it’s ever a good idea to try to hide it.
Is an LLC Owner the Same As an LLC Member?
Yes, these are the same thing. To form an LLC, there must be at least one member, or owner. An LLC can also have multiple members; in some companies, members may also be managers.
Members control an ownership percentage of the business, usually the result of a capital contribution. They may have funded the launch of the LLC or purchased crucial assets.
Benefits of Knowing Who Owns an LLC
If you’re thinking of doing business with an LLC, or any company, it’s best to research and learn all you can about the company before you commit. Its history, financial situation, legal matters, and ownership could all play a role in your decision, so the more you know, the better.
Here are some scenarios in which it would be highly beneficial for you, an LLC owner, to know the name of the owner of another LLC:
- You’re a vendor seeking to become the LLC’s regular supplier
- You’re a vendor owed money by the LLC
- You’re a buyer and have some issues with the LLC’s product or service
- You wish to take legal action against the LLC
Knowing who owns an LLC can facilitate communications and help resolve any potential issues.
What’s more, knowing the business owner’s identity presents a significant advantage if you are considering engaging in business with them.
As you research further, you may discover information influencing how you engage with the LLC or whether you’ll do business with the company. For instance, a search may uncover old legal cases or previous business failures.
Approaches to Identify an LLC’s Owner
Most states require businesses to publicly reveal LLC members’ names, but many states do not. The reality is that privacy is important to business owners, so that you might need help identifying a particular LLC’s members.
Still, there are several ways to acquire this information.
Access Articles of Organization via the State’s Business Registry
As mentioned above, most states require all LLC members to be identified in the articles of organization. In addition, an LLC’s articles of organization are a public document filed with the secretary of state so this option can make your search a short and easy one.
Just conduct a simple search of the business registry on your state’s secretary of state website. You should be able to find the relevant LLC’s name and background info and potentially access its articles of organization.
If an LLC’s articles or organization is not readily available, you should be able to request a copy from the secretary of state for a fee. You can typically make the request online, but you may need to mail in your request. Turnaround times and document request fees vary from state to state, but you may be able to request expedited processing to get it promptly.
Keep in mind that it’s not guaranteed this document will identify the owners, as this is not required in every state. However, if this method proves unsuccessful, you have other options.
Search the Business’s Website
Still, looking? You could visit the company’s website and click on the “About” page. Most businesses provide details on their background, history, growth, and current leadership, so this approach has a decent chance of success.
You could also check the “Careers” page for further info. Since LLC members are often managers, you might find their names listed, perhaps with contact information.
Businesses like to highlight their achievements, so you should check out the “News” or “Media Coverage” page to look for press releases and articles identifying the owners.
Contact the Business
Why not reach out to the business with a direct phone call? If you play your cards right, you can learn who the owner is from whoever you speak to.
You could even get transferred to the owner and have the opportunity to ask any questions you might have about their business.
Remember that many owners prefer their information to remain private, so this approach may not bear fruit.
Like reviewing an LLC’s website, you can check employment and business data websites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and the Better Business Bureau to see if the LLC has a company profile.
That profile might mention the owners’ names, providing a quick solution. Alternatively, the profile may list current employees, along with their positions. Again, LinkedIn is a great starting point for this approach since most business owners use it.
If you’re having trouble getting the information you need, you can hire a data reporting firm, Dun & Bradstreet, to assist you.
This may be the first method you turn to, and why not? It takes practically no time, and Google is a powerful search engine, so it’s not a bad idea.
A quick search for “[LLC name] owner” might reveal their names or reduce the time you spend searching. In addition, you could turn up links to articles, press releases, or social media posts that identify the owner’s name. And from there, you’ll just need to do more Googling.
Can LLC Ownership Be Hidden?
Business owners who prefer to remain anonymous have a few options. The easiest way is to form your LLC in one of the four states that allow anonymous LLCs.
These states are:
- New Mexico
But what if you don’t live in any of these states?
If your LLC is manager-managed, your state’s articles of organization might permit you to designate an external individual or a management service as the LLC’s manager or member. This means that their information is provided instead of yours, thus enabling the business’s owner to remain unknown.
Another option is to hide your LLC ownership behind a trust. The first step would be to form an anonymous trust. Since trusts can legally be LLC members, you can then name the trust, rather than yourself, as an LLC member in the articles of organization.
Your other option is decidedly the most difficult– not to mention expensive– route to keep your LLC’s ownership private. Instead of one LLC, you can form two.
For this method to work, one LLC must be formed in one of the states mentioned above that support anonymous LLCs. This will keep your information private, but since you are not a state resident, you’ll need a registered agent service provider to form your LLC.
When the first LLC is established, you can form an LLC in your home state. You can keep the ownership private by listing the out-of-state LLC as the owner of your new business when you file the articles of organization.
Since your out-of-state LLC will be registered in an anonymous state, your personal information will be protected.
Hiding LLC ownership is far from impossible, but it does take some work if you don’t live in one of the states mentioned above. Also, remember that going to all that effort just to hide your name might create suspicion about your business’s activities and operations.
If you’re set on hiding your LLC ownership, we suggest consulting with an attorney. It’s best to know all of your legal options and the possible consequences.
To Sum Up
Unless the owner of an LLC makes an effort to hide their name intentionally, you should be able to find the owners of a given LLC, as long as you’re willing to dedicate a bit of time.
But if you’re looking to identify the owner of an LLC, you plan to pursue legal action against, you can begin by filing against the LLC itself. Soon enough, the owner is sure to get involved!
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