Architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross finds a creative solution to its own business succession, transferring ownership to employees via an ESOP, and appointing industry leader Luanne Greene as President
Baltimore, MD – Effective January 1, 2016, Luanne Greene, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal and Director of the Campus Planning Studio, will become President, the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history, and one of the few in such a position in a traditionally male-dominated field. In her new role, Greene will lead the management team with a focus on implementing the firm’s strategic vision, while expanding the firm’s reputation and business portfolio in higher education.
With more than 25 years of design and planning experience, Greene has worked on behalf of colleges and universities across the country. Throughout her career, Greene has established new benchmarks in campus planning that have influenced institutions, architects and planners nationwide by integrating strategic planning, culture and context into campus design, changing the way American universities and cultural institutions understand the power of their “place” to support a culture of excellence. Her work on more than 14,000 acres of campus open space and development affects the daily experience of more than 260,000 students and 32,000 faculty and staff.
Greene’s work also includes mission-driven cultural institutions and the renewal of several high profile, iconic American treasures. She has completed master plans for the Wildlife Conservation Society (including the Bronx Zoo) and interconnected plans for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of American History and a Pan-Institutional Collections Space. This work reaches more than 21.5 million visitors annually.
Greene was recently named to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows, which honors architects who have made significant contributions to architecture and society and who have achieved a standard of excellence in the profession.
To ensure the firm’s legacy of creativity and enable continued growth and success, Ayers Saint Gross’ present leadership team of Adam Gross, FAIA, Principal; Jim Wheeler, AIA, LEED AP, President; and Glenn Birx, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal and Vice President, went looking for an out-of-the-ordinary solution to succession. That solution was an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), an under-utilized business transition tool that can reward both owners and employees and smooth the segue from one generation to the next.
“We passed the baton of leadership and ownership to our employees instead of the all-too-usual path of getting swallowed up, shutting the doors or just fading away,” said Gross. Gross, Wheeler and Birx will continue to play integral roles at ASG.
Although ESOPs may be little known, in the right circumstances, these vehicles are a mutually beneficial option for leadership and employees. ESOPs, in simple terms, are when the company buys some or all of the stock of a company and creates a trust for the long-term benefit of the employees. Since more than 60 percent of first-generation companies go out of business, Congress established ESOPs in the 1970’s to provide for the transfer of ownership from one generation to another. Research shows that when ESOPs are well structured and managed, they out perform other companies. Employee participants in an ESOP typically earn five to 12 percent more in wages and three times more in retirement assets than non-ESOP counterparts. Major ESOP companies include Publix Supermarkets, W.L. Gore (makers of Gore-Tex) and Davey Tree and more than half of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” have ESOPs.
Release courtesy Jamie Watt Arnold, Profiles, Inc.