Executives generally aren’t known for giving away their wealth.
But Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya just did, in the form of stock.
The New York Times reports that Ulukaya announced on Tuesday that every full-time employee of the yogurt company would receive an ownership stake — and the portion of the company now owned by employees comes directly from majority owner Ulukaya’s own shares.
That portion, now owned by about 2,000 employees, could be worth up to 10% of the company.
“I’ve built something I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people,” Ulukaya told Stephanie Strom at the Times. “Now they will be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time.”
This move isn’t out of character for Ulukaya, who signed Warren Buffett and Bill Gates’ Giving Pledge, committing himself to giving away half his wealth, an estimated $1.82 billion. He also instituted a 4o1(k) retirement savings plan at Chobani, and told the Times that he’s encouraged employees to sign up — and as far as the ones that didn’t, “I’ve continued to worry about them in retirement.”
Chobani is a private company that was estimated to be worth $3 billion to $5 billion two years ago, when it received a private equity loan. When it sells or goes public, the Times reports, the average employee could receive a payout of about $150,000. Because the shares granted vary based on tenure at the company, some employees could receive as much as $1 million.
That doesn’t mean a sale or IPO is imminent. In February, Reuters reported that Chobani rejected an offer from investors including PepsiCo to buy a majority stake in the company, because “independence remained a key asset to the company and the brand.”