Riverford is set to become entirely owned by its staff as founder Guy Singh-Watson agrees to sell his remaining 23 percent stake for nearly £10 million.
Singh-Watson, who previously sold around 75 percent of the organic vegetable box company to employees in 2018, will receive a payment of £9.8 million over five years.
He will hand over full control to a trust representing the company’s 900 staff members, who receive an annual profit share and actively participate in the business’s operations.
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The 63-year-old farmer emphasized the move does not indicate his retirement, as he plans to remain involved with the business as a trustee, non-executive director, and spokesperson.
Singh-Watson expressed his satisfaction with the successful transition of the co mpany to employee ownership in 2018, highlighting the importance of preserving the company’s values and ensuring fair and rewarding employment for the staff.
A portion of the proceeds from the sale will be invested in solar power and agroforestry on Singh-Watson’s farms in Devon and France, with contributions also going towards the Ripple Effect charity, supporting farmers abroad, and local community projects in Devon.
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While he intends to indulge himself to some extent, Singh-Watson clarified that he has no interest in luxury cars or boats.
Singh-Watson announced that he would fulfill his tax obligations from the share sale and affirmed his support for the concept of a wealth tax.
He acknowledged the influence of the John Lewis Partnership, which previously sourced produce from his farm, and expressed disappointment at reports suggesting the retailer was considering selling a stake to investors rather than maintaining employee ownership.
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Riverford’s transition to employee ownership comes after a challenging period for the veg box company.
Although it experienced increased orders during pandemic lockdowns, many customers have since returned to supermarkets and local stores.
Sales declined by 12 percent to £97 million, and profits before tax and profit sharing with staff decreased to £3 million in the year ending last month, attributed to rising costs of produce, labor, distribution, and energy.
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However, Riverford has expanded its weekly box deliveries from 50,000 to 65,000 since the initial move to employee ownership, and sales have increased by over 50 percent during that time.
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