A set of good company case studies - The new trade unions' vision about employee ownership by SindNova, Italian trade union confederation CISL, (John Lewis Partnership, IsBank, Banca Popolare di Milano, Handelsbanken, Dexia, Total, AerLingus, Kardemir, Tullis Russell, Saf Tehnika, Eircom, Enel)

BT Group: BT won the ifsProShare annual awards 2005 for the "best overall performance in fostering employee share ownership"

Sociedades Laborales (Spain) : Spain set up a new original corporate model - the Sociedades Laborales (SAL) - employee owned companies. This model allowed Spain to start with 17.000 new companies, creating 105.000 new jobs within the last years. These are mostly micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (average of 6-7 employees). Very soon, they are issued from rescue plans (see here some pictures in the Basque Country), all activities or some of them beeing continued by workers, through employee buy-outs. In all regions, all sectors in industry and services. See and
Anthony Jensen, University of Sydney - Spain pioneers Sustainable Democratic Corporate Governance Business Model with Sociedades Laborales

Autoescuela Lagunak SLL (Spain) : This driving school had to face major deficits in 1997, and occupying 22 employees. They had to choose between closing down the company or becoming shareholders. They all choose the second solution. They decided collectively to reduce their wages by 20% as a long as the firm would be in the red. In almost no time, Lagunak overcame its difficulties and profits reappeared. In 2003, it became a sociedad anonima laboral, it awarded the quality control standard ISO 9002, which only 2% of Spanish firms can prevail themselves of. They are now 33 employees, whose 23 beeing also owners of the company. See

Baxi Partnership (United Kingdom) : This investment fund was set up in 2002 to organise and finance the sale of companies to their employees. In the first year they have structured and funded three employee buyouts, and invested in another that was already owned by its employees. "Our total investment was about £5m sterling (7.4m euros) and the number of employees in the companies is about 400 altogether. If we had not enabled their employee buyouts, they would almost certainly have been sold to a competitor and probably very much reduced or even closed. We are currently actively talking to several more companies, and expect to complete at least two more succession buyouts by the end of this year". See

Izar SAL (Spain) : Izar is a precision equipment-manufacturing company making milling-cutters, bits for drillmachines, etc. It was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1996 and was bought out by 123 workers. It was incorporated as a labour limited company. In 2003, the company employs 185 persons. See

Ohio Employee Ownership Center (USA) : Ohio is a region with long industrial tradition. In order to save companies and activities Ohio State has created in 1988 , a specialistic center, connected with Kent State University to help in buyouts of companies by employees. The center provides service on the field of management assistance and widely understood improvement for the companies (mainly PME and small companies) and their employee owners. There are 8 similar centers in 8 american states. There are significant similarities between amercian centers and spanish experiences considering sociedades laborales. See

Mondragon Corporacion Cooperativa (Basque Country, Spain) : The Group of Mondragon Cooperatives is a company , beginnings of which reach the year 1950. It associates 150 middle – sized cooperatives (in order to support the attitude of functionning based on humanity and cooperation), operating in various branches (mechanics, banking, construction, trade, service, hi-tech etc) . The Group employs around 66.000 people . It is the biggest company in the Basque Country and the 6th in Spain. It has a significant input into the national gross product of Spain. See

GDF Suez Group (France) : Suez Group employs around 240.000 people all over the world. The Group has implemented the plan of employee share ownership since 1999 in order to support the spirit of affiliation and cohesion of a company . In a short period of time personnel has become the third group of shareholders of the Group and is represented in The Board of Administration. The plan includes leverage effect which is supposed to protect employee owners in case of a crack of courses on the Stock Exchange. Suez received the Proshare award for the best international plan of employee share ownership.

Foradia SLL (Valencia, Spain) : Foradia is a company of the mechanical engineering industry (heavy-duty equipment and manufacturing systems). It employed 81 persons in 1981 and was threatened with being closed down. It was<rescued by the employees that incorporated it as a labour limited company. It employs47 persons en 2003. See

Tullis Russell (Scotland, UK) : Tullis Russell is a leading company in the paper-making industry. It employs some 1.200 persons. After three generations of family share-ownership, the equity was largely dispersed between cousins. In 1994, the family arranged for the transfer of the company to employees. They are today shareholders of the company. See  
Look at Tullis Russel's business game to learn how an employee ownership company works (video - 3.36")

Socomef s.c. (Belgium) : This company of metal-products manufacturing (fuel-oil burners) run as a family-owned business was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1982. Out of the 10 workers employed in the company, three of them took the risk to buy out the company by establishing a cooperative society. In 2003, Socomef employs 13 persons. See

Air France (France):
The employees of Air France (for instance the pilots) have been incorporated to the stock . This participation resulted in implementing restructuring plans which had been the object of negotiations for the past ten years. In 2003 the employee owners of Air France hold 13,3% of company’s shares and are represented in The Board of Directors of the company by two Directors. See

Iskraemeco (Slovenia): In tune with many other enterprises in Slovenia, de Hungary, Poland, etc, enterprise privatization in 1994 was carried out through the sale to employees. They have acquired 60% of the equity. Today, Iskraemeco is world number one in its sector (electrical engines and measuring instruments); it employs around 2.100 persons. See

L'Artésienne (France): In 1967, 14 employees of a printing works in the city of Lens decided to set up their own enterprise. In 2003, they are 65. See

Unimerco a/s (Denmark): Unimerco was founded in 1964 by Hans Foxby in the town of Lind south of Herning, Denmark. In the first years, UNIMERCO's product programme consisted of Tjep nailers and ancillary brads. The brads were purchased from a French company which also supplied products to Paslode (now ITW), an American company. After a trip to the USA, Foxby came back to Denmark with an exclusive distribution agreement for Paslode gun nailers and nails in Scandinavia. In 1977, UNIMERCO introduced a new ownership structure. All employees were offered to buy shares in UNIMERCO which was converted into a limited company, UNIMERCO A/S. At that time, the shares were owned by managers and the two foundations, 'UNIMERCOs Fond' and 'Hans Foxbys Fond'. Over the years 1995-1998, the share capital was considerably increased and in 1995 UNIMERCO A/S became wholly owned by management and employees as the shares owned by the two foundations were offered for sale to the employees. Today, 77% of all employees in the Group hold shares in UNIMERCO. UNIMERCO A/S, DK, has been elected 'workplace of the year in Denmark 2002' and ranked in the category 'best 10 EU workplaces' in 2003.
Presentation by CEO Ken Iversen on November 11, 2009 to the World Forum in Lille See

Meriasennus Cooperative (Finland): Meriasennus Cooperative was founded in Pori 1998 after a privately held company went bankrupt (for the third time) in the spring. The workforce had been working together for 15 odd years and they wanted to keep the group together. Five future members met in Pori to discuss their options and pretty soon decided to form their own company. They chose to form a cooperative for a couple of reasons. First they wanted to make sure the firm would stay employee owned and secondly all would retain ownership. Under Finnish Law this was easiest to ensure by founding a cooperative. Meriasennus specializes in electrical installations in ships, so their largest customer is the shipyards of Kvaener-Masa Yards in Finland. Meriasennus has grown from 23 employees to about 40. Of the early employee owners, 21 are still employed. They have been very successful, turnover in 2002 was 3.5 million Euros and profitability is very good. The year 2003 is predicted to be about the same as 2002. The managing director, Ilkka Alasippola, says "Of course the work motivation is very high when you're working for yourself!" And they have always been proud to say that Meriasennus pays the best electricians wages on the ship yards.

John Lewis Partnership (UK): The John Lewis Partnership is one of the UK's top ten retail businesses with 26 John Lewis department stores and more than 160 Waitrose supermarkets. The Partnership is Britain's biggest example of worker co-ownership. All 60,000 permanent staff are Partners in the business and share in its profits - that's why they care about the customers - and the suppliers - and the future. See

VoestAlpine (Austria): Since the year 2000, the management and the works council of the voestalpine Group have been engaged in the joint development of an innovative concept that surprised many at the time. The idea was to let the employees participate in the company through shares owned by them, to turn them into a stable core shareholder by pooling their voting rights, and to allow them to benefit from the success of voestalpine as individual shareholders. Read more


The two rankings of Europe's largest companies regarding employee share ownership were first published in 2006:
EUROCAP100: Companies being ranked by equity held by employees, in millions Euro. Europe's largest companies that are partly or totally employee-owned through an ESOP, share purchase plan, or other share ownership plans, or as a workers' co-operative.
EUROEMP100: Companies being ranked by number of employees. Europe's largest companies that are 50% or more employee-owned through an ESOP, share purchase plan, or other share ownership plans, or as a workers' co-operative. Companies must be at least majority employee owned by at least 50% of their full-time employees or by an ESOP or profit sharing plan to qualify.
Click here for the rankings









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