HR Strange But True!
March 17, 2010

It was a surprise birthday party--and we really mean surprise! Bob Moore, founder of Bob's Red Mill Natural Foods, must believe it's better to give than to receive. So he celebrated his 81st birthday in a unique way--he gave his company to his employees!

Moore started the Milwaukee, Oregon company to bring back old-fashioned natural grains that are low-tech--they are stone ground. But he used a relatively new vehicle--the Employee Stock Ownership Plan--to give his 209 employees ownership of the organization, reports The Seattle Times. Eventual payouts could be substantial," John Wagner, the company's chief financial officer, told the paper.

There’s more good news--Moore is not trying to get rid of his company--it’d doing great even in this economy, with the company growing between 20 percent and 30 percent since 2004, according to the paper. Moore declined to put a price on Red Mill, says the article, but it was reportedly worth $24 million several years ago. And he could easily have sold it, reports Nancy Garner, Moore’s executive assistant, who says she receives inquiries to buy the privately held company almost every day.

“In some ways I had a choice” about selling Red Mill, which he and his wife founded in 1978, Moore said in the interview. “But in my heart, I didn’t. These people are far too good at their jobs for me to just sell it.” Moore began looking a succession options about 9 years ago. He settled on an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) 3 years ago. In general, an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) is a form of retirement plan in which the company contributes its stock for the benefit of employees. When employees leave the employer, they receive from the trust the fair market value of their shares in the plan. “This is Bob taking care of us,” said Lori Sobelson, who works in retail operations. “He expects a lot out of us, but really gives us the world in return.” We're still learning all of the details," reports Nancy Garner, "but it's very humbling to be part of a company that cares this much about its employees."

Source: Seattle Times

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