Marketplace Scratch Pad

A nice story, for a change

Scott Jagow Feb 18, 2010

Make sure you catch Marketplace tonight, so you can hear from 81-year-old Bob Moore. Moore owns Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods based in Oregon. Well, he did own it. He just handed over the entire operation to a group of 209 people — his employees.

It’s a pretty cool story:

“This is Bob taking care of us,” said Lori Sobelson, who helps run the business’ retail operation. “He expects a lot out of us, but really gives us the world in return.” Moore declined to say how much he thinks the company is worth. In 2004, however, one business publication estimated that year’s revenues at more than $24 million. A company news release issued this week stated that Bob’s Red Mill has chalked up an annual growth rate of between 20 percent to 30 percent every year since.

“In some ways I had a choice,” Moore said of what he could have done with the company he founded with his wife, Charlee, in 1978. “But in my heart, I didn’t. These people are far too good at their jobs for me to just sell it.”

Moore had several buyout offers but instead opted for an ESOP, an employee stock ownership plan. The company contributes its stock to the plan, and the stock is held in trust for the benefit of the employees. Moore’s executive assistant is Nancy Garner:

Garner said she and other employees are floored by Moore’s plan, under which any worker with at least three years tenure is now fully vested. “We’re still learning all of the details,” Garner said, “but it’s very humbling to be part of a company that cares this much about its employees.”

“Eventual payouts could be substantial,” said John Wagner, the company’s chief financial officer and, along with Moore, one of four partners.

The constant stream of discouraging news sometimes makes us forget there are plenty of positive things still happening in our business communities. Thank you, Bob.

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