Literally, one who holds a stake in an enterprise or project. The broader definition of stakeholder refers to someone who is involved in or affected, directly or indirectly, by a course of action. In a typical corporation context, the stakeholders will be investors, employees, customers and suppliers.
Nowadays, however, the notion has been expanded to include other stakeholders such as the community, government and trade associations. Naturally, the more stakeholders involved in an enterprise or initiative, the more likely it is for their various self-interests to be opposed or in conflict with each other.
Managing the interests of all stakeholders is a key strategic topic for many companies.