Sawday’s shakes up ownership structure as majority share is handed to employees


Travel company, Sawday’s and Sawday’s Canopy & Stars, has revealed a ownership structure, in which its employees take a 52% majority share in the business.

The deal was done following founder Alistair Sawday’s decision to wind down from the business and contemplate his ‘exit’.

The hybrid model, thought to be the first of its kind, sees 52% handed to the employees of the Bristol based company, 24% to a newly established Sawday charitable Trust and 24% remaining in the family.

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After 25 years as a family-owned company, and after refusing to sell the business in the traditional sense founder Alastair Sawday, under the guidance of the Employee Ownership Association, transitioned the business to the current hybrid model – an employee-owned, charitable, family company.

Speaking about his decision Alastair says: “I started Sawday’s over 25 years ago and have always wanted the company to promote what is good and decent and to do so in perpetuity, if possible. So, in my early 70s and contemplating my ‘exit’, what was I to do? It was not attractive to sell to the highest bidder and ignore the employees. Employee ownership, I believe, provides a lot of answers to the questions I have pondered. Why not re-create Sawday’s to give it a deeper purpose, to embed further the values and ethics I have long campaigned for, and to engage and empower the employees who share this vision. Through the charitable influence of the new Sawday Trust, the values of the company and the continuing drive and enterprise of the family we will continue to fly the flag for independence.”

Figures from the Employee Ownership Association show the growth in the sector, 60% over the past seven years, primarily driven by owner / founders using employee ownership as a solution to business succession.

Further research reveals EO companies show higher levels of consumer trust, resilience, productivity and employee satisfaction.

Alastair concludes: “The general trend of EO companies is to do better, so I could not be happier with the direction we are taking. Our purpose and values have always been clear and now that the company is primarily owned by its employees we will go from strength to strength.”

Deb Oxley, CEO of the EOA, said: “We congratulate Sawdays on their transition to employee ownership. The way they have created a hybrid model of ownership that suits their values, ethics and future sustainability shows the versatility of employee ownership models that can help businesses root themselves in communities as well as continue to thrive and grow for years to come as part of a succession plan.”

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk

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