Richer Sounds founder hands over control of hi-fi and TV firm to staff

Richer Sounds founder hands over control of hi-fi and TV firm to staff. The latest ‘convert’ to Employee Ownership – an ownership structure that works for SME businesses up to large companies such as this.

“The founder of Richer Sounds is handing control of the hi-fi and TV retail chain to staff, in a move that will also give employees large cash bonuses.

Julian Richer will announce to staff on Tuesday that he has transferred 60% of his shares into a John Lewis-style trust. Richer, who recently turned 60, said the “time was right” to pass the baton to the chain’s 531 employees.”

“My father dropped down dead at 60 so I am very keen for this to happen in my lifetime,” explained Richer. “I felt the time was right, rather than leaving it until I’m not around, to ensure the transition goes smoothly and I can be part of it. I still really, really care but it is time for the next generation.”

With annual sales of nearly £200m, Richer Sounds is one of the biggest UK companies to embrace employee ownership in recent years.

The Employee Ownership Association (EOA) says more than 350 businesses have now adopted the model, with at least 50 more preparing to follow suit. Recent converts include Riverford, the organic vegetable box company and Aardman, the Bristol-based animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit.

Richer will stay on as managing director for the time being. Day-to-day operations are already overseen by the chief executive, Julie Abraham, who will eventually succeed him. Richer and the retailer’s chairman David Robinson are two of four trustees of the newly established Richer Sounds Trust.

Robinson, who has worked for the company for 35 years, said the ownership change would make colleagues feel even more connected to the company: “They have a real stake in the success of the business and can take pride in knowing they are shareholders, building for the future.”

The trust will operate according to a set of principles designed to ensure it continues to follow the course set by Richer over the past 40 years. A colleague advisory council will be established to represent the interests of employees and shape the company’s future.

Richer said the arrangement meant the company would avoid an “aggressive” outside investor “changing the strategy”.

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