Home Private Equity Kickstart: Private equity and employee ownership — the odd couple

Kickstart: Private equity and employee ownership — the odd couple


The odd couple marriage of private equity and employee ownership — including a recent investment by KKR into Charter Next Plastics — is getting some positive national media attention.

In a segment on CBS News Sunday Morning on Feb. 19, Allison Aubrey — also an NPR correspondent — spoke with Charter Next CEO Kathy Bolhous and Charles Marlow, a plant training coordinator, as part of a story on KKR adding employee ownership as part of buying a stake in the Wisconsin company.

The idea behind getting employees their own stake in the company, as KKR’s Pete Stavros says, is to provide incentive for continuous improvement. Those actions improve the company, which improves its value during any future potential sale. On the CBS segment, Stavros notes that his father, a road construction worker, talked about “the need to just work steady, not too fast, not too slow to get in trouble, but just steady.”

With the potential for future payouts, employees can see a reason behind efforts to improve profit. That includes, for instance, cutting scrap by 1 percent — a move that would add $10 million in additional profit.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to get employees to really understand how their day-to-day actions translate into long-term results,” Bolhous tells Aubrey in the report.

Charter Next’s story is told alongside that of C.H.I. Overhead Doors of Arthur, Ill. KKR purchased in the company in 2015, with employees taking a share in its ownership. When it sold in 2022, the average payout to employees was $175,000.

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