Precision engineering firm GS Brown, based in Fife, was established by 1974 by tool maker George Brown, who handed the reigns to his sons Des and Mike following his retirement. When the brothers were considering their own retirement, they wanted to ensure the company would continue to operate successfully and provide employment for its loyal staff, many of whom are local and long-serving. In May 2019, the firm became employee-owned, with 70% of its shares being held in an employee ownership trust.
We caught up with Des, who is Managing Director at GS brown, to hear more about their decision to sell the company to staff.
“As a family business with a well-established, close-knit team, it was really important for us to find a succession solution which was a good fit for us. Our priority was to enable GS Brown to continue operating without disruption, and to secure its future and the jobs of our staff. Around 70% of the firm’s workforce have had long service with it and the team includes families, with fathers and sons amongst the employees.
“If an external buyer had taken over the company, there would have been no guarantee of our manufacturing plant remaining here, where it was established, in the long-term.
“I first learned about employee ownership at a CEED (Centre for Engineering Education and Development) conference in the spring of 2018. Realising that the model offered a great deal of potential and the opportunity to pass control of GS Brown over to those who know it best, I sought out further information.
“We were given initial support and guidance by Fife Enterprise, followed by in-depth insight from Co-operative Development Scotland and Ownership Associates, which enabled us to fully consider the merits of employee ownership and consult with our staff. The process was then initiated in November 2018.
“We’re very pleased that the transition to employee ownership has all been relatively straightforward – the business has just carried on operating seamlessly. GS Brown is now in a very strong position for the team to build on its success and reputation; we believe the company has a great future ahead and employee ownership is good news for everyone involved with it.
GS Brown’s transition to employee ownership was supported by Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS) and Ownership Associates. Legal services for the transfer were provided by Thorntons Solicitors whilst EQ Chartered Accountants provided financial services.
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