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A hand-painted color chart by Golden Artist Colors (all images courtesy Golden Artist Colors)

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Golden Artist Colors, an American manufacturer of professional artist paints best known for its acrylics, announced on Friday, October 1, that it has become fully owned by its employees.

The move marks the completion of a transition that began in 2002, when the company issued an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) for its staff. An ESOP is an employee benefit plan that provides company stock to employees as part of their retirement benefits. In May 2010, Golden crossed a major milestone when it became majority-owned by its employees. As of last week, all of the company’s stock is exclusively owned by the employees and held in a special ESOP trust.

Founded in 1980 by Sam Golden, and currently run by his son Mark, the eponymous company grew from a modest workshop in a barn in upstate New York to a globally recognized brand of high-quality artist paints. It now employs over 200 workers at three locations in New York’s Chenango county: its headquarters in New Berlin; a 100,000-square-foot facility in rural Columbus; and a 45,000-square-foot commercial warehouse and distribution center in Norwich.

“Implementing 100% ownership for staff is very unique and something our family has dreamt about since the company’s beginning,” said Mark Golden in a statement to Hyperallergic. “We began on the premise that ‘what you care about will grow’ and Golden Artist Colors has grown many times beyond the dreams we once had as we peered across the fields from my parent’s kitchen. It has been through the care and dedication of each of our staff that has joined us on this journey and made this place part of themselves.” 

A worker at Golden Artist Colors’s facility in Columbus, New York

According to data by the National Center for Employee Ownership (NCEO), a nonprofit that advocates for employee ownership, there were only about 6,500 companies in the US that share ownership with their employees as of 2018. ESOPs cover over 14 million workers, of whom 10.3 million are active participants, meaning currently employed and covered by an ESOP plan. Workers who are covered by an ESOP reported having more than twice the average total retirement balance of Americans nationally, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the NCEO and Employee-Owned S Corporations of America (ESCA).

“Time has demonstrated that companies with 100% employee ownership often see greater productivity, higher profitability, and increased revenue,” Mark Golden explained. “These successes tend to continue over time, as employees have a vested interest in the sustainability and overall success of the company.” 

“Employee ownership, when done right, benefits all stakeholders and should be celebrated,” added Golden’s president and chief operating officer, Barbara Schindler. “It is a true win/win transaction for all parties involved.”

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

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