Hartland-based strategic marketing and communications firm Charleston|Orwig Inc. is now employee-owned. The company’s owners, chairman and founding partner Lyle Orwig, chief executive officer Mark Gale, and president Marcy Tessmann, sold their 33 percent ownership stakes to an employee stock ownership plan trust on June 15. The company is now 100 percent owned by the ESOP, and all of its 39 full-time employees have company stock in their retirement benefit plan.
Charleston|Orwig focuses on communications for the food industry. The owners, who declined to disclose the sale price, said they would have received more for the sale had they sold to an outside firm, but they wanted to retain Charleston|Orwig’s staff and culture as it is. All three partners also became ESOP stockholders, Gale said. Orwig, the most senior partner, will work part-time for the next few years. “We wanted continuity and we needed a transition,” Gale said. “We didn’t want to just cross our fingers and wait. We wanted to be deliberate about planning a succession.”
Since ESOP companies do not pay taxes, Gale said the tax savings will be used to pay off the loan associated with the sale, and later contribute to the company’s growth.
“When John Charleston and I founded the agency back in 1992, we wanted to create a legacy to carry on in the communications business long after we retired,” noted Lyle E. Orwig, chairman and founding partner. “Over the years, despite our rapid business growth, that familial atmosphere has not dwindled—it has strengthened. C|O is very much like a family—a high performance family. Our culture is at the core of everything we do and instilled in every person carrying a C|O business card.”
“This is a somewhat unique move at a time when the marketing communications industry is continuing to consolidate. However, the partners felt strongly about maintaining our independence as an agency and the continuity that provides for employees and clients,” Tessmann said.
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