News this summer that Tangerine,  a Manchester based PR, digital and social media agency has become an employee owned agency tapping into the zeitgist of employee engagement and broader ownership,  mirrors numerous conversations I have had over the  last few months with agency owners.     

The tax change which occurred in April 2015, enabling an agency owner to sell a controlling stake into an employee ownership trust free of capital gains tax may be a contributing factor (and if not it’s a welcome side benefit) but there are greater factors at play.  Agency owners are increasingly searching for an alternative succession plan to  the traditional route of selling out to a bigger agency or network in order to enable the founders to exit and provide the platform to the next level of management to take the agency forward under the new ownership of a larger agency or network.  

Founders now talk to me about “legacy” and wanting to be seen to be “doing the right thing” by their agency staff and colleagues, very often that will be a sale of the agency giving global reach to clients and expanded roles for ambitious agency staff, but increasingly founders are contemplating more imaginative “exits”.   For some,  the transfer of the ownership of the company into a trust for the benefit of employees, into what most would paraphrase as “the John Lewis model”, is an interesting and attractive option.