The founders and shareholders of Aardman have revealed plans to turn control of the company over to its employees, with the Oscar-winning animation studio now owned by an employee ownership trust.
Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who founded the studio responsible for Morph, Wallace and Gromit and Chicken Run, believe the move will ensure the studio’s independence.
The majority of Aardman’s shares will be transferred into a trust, holding them on behalf of the company’s workforce. The senior management team will remain in their existing roles and will form the executive board.
Sproxton will continue as managing director for the next twelve months while a replacement is found, before he transfers to a consultancy role.
Peter Lord will remain creative director at the company with a focus on the company’s feature film output, which includes the upcoming Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon film for autumn 2019, and Chicken Run 2.
The pair said: “We’re not quitting yet, but we are preparing for our future. This approach, the creation of an employee trust, is the best solution we have found for keeping Aardman doing what it does best, keeping the teams in place and providing continuity for our highly creative culture. And of course, those that create value in the company will continue to benefit directly from the value they create.
“The statistics show that employee owned companies are significantly more successful than conventionally owned companies. So we are very excited by the prospect of seeing Aardman roll far into the future under this arrangement and can rest easy that those four decades which have slipped by have paved the way for many more years of great creativity.”
Four-time Oscar winning director Nick Park will continue to have an active role in the studio’s feature film and shorts productions.
The company was advised on the matter by TLT.
Ben Watson, partner at TLT led the transition, with support from corporate partner Alice Gardner, corporate lawyer Sarah Bratton and incentives trainee Emily Broderick.
Watson said: “As a firm, we have been involved with Aardman for many years and are delighted to have been able to support them in the move to employee ownership. The employee ownership model not only helps to ensure independence for the business, it also shares the rewards with the people who contribute to its success.
“With Aardman’s co-founders looking to the future, giving control of the business to its highly creative and long-standing workforce was clearly a very suitable and positive way to move forwards.”
Deb Oxley, chief executive of the Employee Ownership Association said: “We congratulate Aardman on its transition to employee ownership which is a great example of where the EOT model can be used to secure the businesses ethos, creative values and independence for the longer term while helping those who supported its creative success to share in the value they create.
“This has been an exciting journey for us to support David, Peter and the team knowing that Aardman’s iconic productions will continue to bring joy to fans new and old for many more years to come.”