KBB manufacturer JJO has became an employee-owned business, and is now majority owned by an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). The existing shareholders have sold 67% of the shares to this newly established trust, with much of the consideration deferred over the next 15 years.

JJO has a strong balance sheet, with a track record of continuous profitability. It has been in the hands of the Greenhalgh family for half of its 150-year history. For some time, the original owners have been succession planning, to look at the best way to take the company forward, and the latest decision was led by a desire to sustain the company’s independence and values, while recognising the efforts of its employees and their contribution to JJO’s considerable success.

MD Stephen Greenhalgh (pictured) says: “Although Gill and I remain committed to the business, we realised that the next generation are many years away from acquiring the skills to operate such a large and complex operation. So there was no natural exit strategy. Involving private equity was not something we wanted to consider. A trade sale, whilst attractive for shareholders, would not have guaranteed jobs for our brilliant team or ensured that our father’s legacy lives on. Following professional advice it seemed an EOT would provide a ‘best of both worlds’ solution – safeguarding the continuity of the business and enabling the shareholders to extract some value (whilst maintaining an ongoing stake) as well as securing the future wellbeing of JJO’s extended family.”

Joint MD Lee Greenhalgh (who joined the company in 1977) will be stepping back from day-to-day involvement, yet the existing executive board will remain in place for the medium term, with Lee adopting a non-executive role in the longer term. “It will be business as usual but better – no deviation from the JJO ethos and unswerving pride in delivering products customers want, when they want them,” concludes Stephen.