Funding the employee buyout – Part One

At a recent Expert Breakfast Briefing session, John Alexander of consultancy firm Baxendale tackled the issues around funding an employee buyout.

Here, CDS specialist adviser Carole Leslie looks at some of the key points raised in the session.

Employee ownership is a model fast gaining pace – the number of employee-owned firms in Scotland has doubled in four years, and if more of the right kind of finance could be made available, this number would increase significantly.

Alexander said: “It’s chicken and egg. Raising awareness is important, but for an exponential increase in employee ownership there has to be access to the right kind of money. The money comes first.”

  • The equity gap must be addressed

Alexander proposed the solution as being the establishment of high-profile funding sources staffed with visionary fund managers. The Baxendale experience proves that employee ownership presents a reliable, if different, investment. Patient capital is required to nurture the model and that will take a change in behaviour from funders.

  • Vendor financing plays an important role

Properly structured vendor financing can benefit the seller and the business. The outgoing owner will usually be a benevolent and well-informed lender who will take a flexible approach to repayment, ensuring the employees are not overly burdened with debt. An earn-out deal can mean that the vendor benefits from productivity gains driven by the new employee-owned structure.

  • The importance of the employee stake must not be underestimated.

Alexander counselled that employees do not become the main funders of the transaction. This could create funding issues for a future internal share market. However, employee investment is the result of a decision by the employee that their company is worth investing in. Financial buy-in results in an emotional buy-in that reflects in performance.

Next week, we’ll be looking at some of the other issues around financing an employee buyout.

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