In 1600, the English government established the English East India Company as a monopoly over English trade in the Far East. This one company was seen as a major threat to Dutch trade. Despite the fact that both countries were allied against Spain and Portugal in the ongoing Forty Years War did not jump from the political realm into the business one. While the English would have a united front in the spice trade, the Dutch were still forming their own corporations and funding numerous trade missions to the Spice Islands.
In 1603, the Staaten-General sponsored the creation of a single company, a United East India Company (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie). The company charter was created and signed by a coalition of investors and politicians in Amsterdam. In order to counter the Portuguese stranglehold on trade, and rival Companies, the VOC Charter granted the company the right to raise armies, build forts and conclude treaties with the Princes of India and the Indies in the name of the Staaten-General. The Dutch government went further and granted the VOC a twenty-one year monopoly on all trade with East Asia. The Charter was granted on March 20, 1602.
The VOC was ran by a council of seventeen gentlemen from offices in the city of Amsterdam, eight of which were elected by the Provinces. These gentlemen owned the largest share of the company. Despite the fact that any Netherlander could own shares in the VOC, a vast majority were owned by just a handful of investors. In theory, this allowed the whole public to take part in the VOC, to profit from its business ventures. In reality, the power of the company rested in the hand the Dutch trade cartel and the cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Delft, Hoorn and Middleburg. The Counts of Holland and Zeeland both own their shares of the company, as would the Staaten-General in 1612.