On Tuesday Morning, 2,000 full time Chobani employees received the surprise of a lifetime: shares worth 10% of the company, a bonus which could mean up to a million dollars for some employees when the company is sold or goes public. According to CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005, the goal is to pass along the wealth he could not have accumulated without the help of his employees.
The distribution of shares was based on tenure, with the employees who had been with Chobani longest receiving the largest distribution. Since Chobani’s current valuation, as estimated by TPG capital, is $3 – $5 billion, the average value of each employee’s distribution is $150,000. The shares come directly from Mr. Ulukaya, who is still the majority stakeholder. If employees leave or retire before Chobani is bought or goes public, they can hold onto the shares or sell them back to the company.
The move has obviously already generated a lot of press, particularly as it touches on the hot button topic of the wealth gap in America, much discussed this election cycle. Mr. Ulukaya himself has not made the connection explicit – focusing instead on his appreciation for his employees, and their crucial role in bringing the company where it is today.
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