Private Equity is Empowering Workers through Broad-Based Employee Ownership Programs

Private equity investments support workers with well-paying jobs at more than 30,000 businesses nationwide. More than 12 million Americans are employed by private equity-backed companies. These workers make more than $80,000 in annual wages and benefits, which far exceeds the national average. Now, private equity is going even further to support workers by launching innovative initiatives to give employees an ownership stake in their companies and a voice in how their businesses are run. 

Over the past month, media outlets have reported on employee ownership initiatives – including these stories:

WSJ – Blackstone to Grant Equity to Most Employees in Future U.S. Buyouts

Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that Blackstone announced it would grant ownership stakes to most employees at its portfolio companies. The new initiative will apply to all new Blackstone investments going forward and will positively impact more than 400,000 workers across its portfolio companies. Blackstone is kicking off the program by giving ownership to roughly 18,000 employees of Copeland, which is a manufacturer that builds commercial heating and cooling systems.

Blackstone has already implemented broad-based ownership programs at some of its companies, such as Legoland-owner Merlin Entertainments. “In what we’re trying to do across our portfolio, broad-based equity ownership is just a part of a much more important path,” said Joseph Baratta, global head of private equity.

CBS 60 Minutes – Private equity heavyweight pushing employee ownership

In a recent 60 Minutes segment, CBS News interviewed KKR executive Peter Stavrosabout his vision to give ownership stakes to employees at KKR-backed businesses. The piece highlights how employee ownership in C.H.I. Overhead Doors, a KKR-backed business, helped change employees’ lives and enriched the broader Arthur, Illinois community.

  • “Layoffs would have devastated Brad Edwards’ family. They were buried under credit card debt with no savings—both Brad and his wife, Crystal, had to take second jobs to support themselves and their three daughters. But when KKR executive Pete Stavros came to Arthur to speak to employees after the sale, he brought unexpected news. Far from the steep cutbacks the workers feared, C.H.I would be growing, and the entire workforce would now be part-owners in the business.”

  • “In 2022, KKR sold C.H.I. Overhead Doors for a ten-fold return. Employees were summoned to the factory floor for the payout announcement. They knew they stood to gain, but not precisely how much. Stavros started with employees who’d just joined the company. Their payout: $20,000. The numbers went up from there, according to how long employees had been at C.H.I. Brad Edwards wouldn’t reveal exactly how much he made, but said the check was in the mid-six figures. It was life-changing for the family.”

  • “The windfall for C.H.I. employees rippled across Arthur, Illinois as employees had money to spend in, and on, the community. The Edwards family donated to their church, paid off their credit card debt and started a college fund for their kids.”

Stavros also played a major role in launching Ownership Works, a nonprofit organization with strong private equity membership that partners with companies and investors to allow all employees to build wealth at work. Since 2011, more than 45 KKR portfolio companies have awarded billions of dollars of total equity value to over 100,000 non-senior-management employees.