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Private Company Research

There are many difficulties in searching for private company information. Consequently, researching private companies often requires considerable creativity. After exhausting some of the more basic directories like Wards, some of the sources below MIGHT reveal more information. One of the most common sources for private companies is Dun & Bradstreet.

Unlike public companies, private companies are not required to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) so the information that can be found in those documents is not necessarily available for companies that are private. Many times after a merger (or for other reasons) a company that was once was public chooses, or is forced, to go private. If you want information on those companies, the basic company information will still be available; as well as old SEC documents and the filing to go private (13E-3). You can find additional guidance on researching private companies, in the following publication.

Researching Private Companies. Arlington, VA : Washington Researchers.
LC Call Number: HD2771.H695
LC Catalog Record: 2004205474

image of Sleuth

Doing Company Research

Table of Contents

Scope
Directories
Rankings/Lists
Private Company Research
Public Company Research
Foreign Company Research

Databases/Data Sources

Many local public library systems subscribe to databases for citizens holding a current library card so please check to see what you may have access to.

Business Insights: Global (Gale Cengage)
Available by subscription

This source includes information from the Gale publications like Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies and Graham & Whiteside directories covering other regions of the world (excluding the United States).
Dun & Bradstreet External Link

A source useful for both current business information and business history. Most companies have D&B reports (generally for credit information). Dun & Bradstreet is a publisher that often actively seeks information from private firms by directly calling the company. Much of the information in a D&B report is voluntary so the quantity of information will likely vary from company to company. In 2003 D&B acquired Hoovers which was another known publisher of information on privately owned companies.

Data from D&B is available for purchase directly from the company.  They also have a number of products that are available via subscription including Hoover's Relationship Manager, Hoover's Academic, and via Mergent Intellect. Check locally at universities and public libraries for access.

PrivCo
Available by subscription

PrivCo is a source for private company business and financial intelligence that covers over 225,000 private companies. PrivCo focuses its coverage on U.S. Major Private Companies (with at least $50-100 million in annual revenues) as well as thousands of companies that earn well under $10 million per year in annual revenue.  Many of the private companies covered by PrivCo generate $500 million to $10 billion per year in sales. PrivCo also provides financial research coverage on what they consider to be smaller but high-value private companies. This is a subscription database available at the Library of Congress for onsite researchers only. For those researchers not at the Library of Congress, it can be accessed only by those who have paid for a subscription.

ReferenceUSA (InfoUSA)
Available by subscription

Directory information for publicly and privately owned companies in the United States and Canada compiled from over 5,000 Yellow page directories, Business White Pages, Corporate Annual Reports, SEC 10K reports, Chamber of Commerce Directories, state directories, and other public information sources.

Company web sites

Never underestimate the information that companies publish on their own web sites. However, keep in mind that some companies use their web pages as glorified catalogs, brochures, or advertisements.

Article searches

In addition to searching in business journals, you may also search for articles from multiple sources in many full-text databases, such as Infotrac, Nexis, ABI-Inform, EBSCO Masterfile, and Business & Industry (Gale/RDS); however, such databases are generally not free so check to see if your local public or a university library in your area has subscribed to any of them.

Local Business Journals

The American City Business Journals External Link are a good source for local company information. Such companies are often the companies that are most difficult to find information on. The site does require registration, and some things are not free, but there is no charge for most access. The site links to business news from over thirty cities including Washington, Seattle, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Baltimore, Albany, Orlando, Nashville, and more.

In addition there are also several web sites which have compiled links to other local resources including City/Regional External Link magazines and Local/Business External Link periodicals.

Secretaries of State

Companies are required to file with the Secretary of State of the state in which they are established. The National Association of Secretaries of State External Link has an easy pull-down menu to find your state's web page.

Last Updated: 01/10/2013

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  July 11, 2013
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