The first of five CDS employee ownership events took place last week at animal feed manufacturer Galloway & MacLeod’s HQ in South Lanarkshire.
Here, CDS specialist adviser Glen Dott takes a look at why employee ownership can be the ideal solution for businesses thinking about succession.
Plan for the future
It’s essential for business owners to be planning for their eventual exit. By providing certainty for the future, company value can be maintained. When Ralph MacLeod decided to sell to his employees he shaped the future of his organisation and more importantly dictated the speed and terms of his exit. Furthermore, it meant that the MacLeod family’s desire for the business to remain in Stonehouse was honoured.
An employee buyout offers an incredibly flexible way for owners to extract value from the business. Not only did Ralph strike a deal at a reasonable price but the sale process was simplified without compromising on due diligence.
Tax efficiency bonus
The Galloway and MacLeod deal was designed to ensure the maximum tax efficiency for the family, the business and also the employees. New tax regulations – which came into force in April this year – can ensure that a sale to an employee owned trust is essentially tax free. Businesses controlled by an employee owned trust are able to pay a tax free bonus to employees of up to £3600 annually.
Trust, individual or hybrid share ownership?
Galloway and MacLeod has designed a structure in which the employee trust will ultimately be the majority shareholder. Employees can also buy or earn shares, which allows them to benefit from share value increases and dividends when the company does well.
Marathon not a sprint
The transition to employee ownership can take place over a number of years – 15 in the case of Galloway and MacLeod. The MacLeod family have taken the long view and the employee trust will buy 1/15 of the shares annually using an option arrangement which provides leeway for both the family and the employee trust.
It’s essential for employees to understand and be involved in the buyout process. If everyone is an owner their objectives will be aligned and it is likely there will be a performance uplift. All available evidence confirms this – employee owned businesses where employees have a significant equity stake and an influence on governance are more productive than other business ownership forms. In many cases this can positively affect the ‘earn out’ for exiting owners.