Friday, February 19, 2010

Sometimes, It's Not Just About the Money

Imagine this situation: You're the owner (with three partners) of a successful company, built up over more than 30 years, and now worth, say, $80 million. You have more than 200 employees, some of whom have been with you for all that time.

Now imagine that you've just turned 81, and two of your partners are in their 60s and 70s. What would you do?

Well, if you're Bob Moore (alas, no relation!) of Bob's Red Mill of Milwaukie OR, which manufactures some 400 whole grains, flours, and other products, here's what you do: you make a gift. Of the whole company. To your employees.

As Mr. Moore told Marketplace's Kai Ryssdal, "You reach a certain point in your life.... And you've got to decide what you're going to do. You can sell the company. We've had lots and lots of opportunities. There's just too many bad stories about what happens when going entities like our company are sold. The new owners don't always do what you think they should do, and they're not always kind to the employees. I just absolutely felt I had to come up with something that would work." (click here for the whole interview, available as transcript or audio)

Moore and his partners have set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) that essentially turns over the whole company to the employees.

In an interview with ABC News' Christine Brozyna, Moore said, "There's a lot of negative stuff going into business today.... It's a good old basic Bible lesson -- love of money is the root of all evil. And unfortunately, our entire philosophy today is get all the money you can and whatever way you can. It's caused many corporations to bite off more than they can chew. And it causes people to do a lot of things just for money that they feel in their hearts is not the right thing to do."

Thanks, Bob, and many many happy returns of the day.

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