Who’s the boss now? Ownership of longtime Syracuse ad agency goes to employees

Syracuse, NY – Eric Mower, who turned his Syracuse-based advertising agency into one of the nation’s largest independent marketing communications companies, has sold ownership of the company to his employees.

The agency said Wednesday that Mower had transferred 100% ownership of the company to a new employee stock ownership plan. The agency’s management team, including Mower, will remain in place.

The move means that current and future employees of the agency will receive ownership shares in the agency, providing them with an additional retirement benefit when they leave the company.

They also benefit from additional job security, since the agency cannot be sold to a third party without the approval of the plan of ownership, which is held by a trust which must act in the interests of the employees.

Mower shared news of the ownership transfer with employees at special meetings Wednesday in Syracuse, where the agency began and is still headquartered, and in Greenville, South Carolina, a central location for center employees. of Charlotte and Atlanta of the agency.

Mower, 77, said he was considering other options, including selling the agency to a third party, but decided an employee stock ownership plan would be better for the company and its employees.

“I went from being a sole proprietor to being a colleague of 150 employee owners,” he said.

Employee share plans are an increasingly popular means of providing a market for the shares of exiting owners of successful closely held companies, and motivating and rewarding employees, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership.

Almost unknown until 1974, there are now 6,460 such plans covering 14.2 million people in the United States, according to the center. In 2019, the last year for which data is available, 239 new employee share ownership plans were created, covering 46,537 members. In New York, there are 257 such plans covering 92,169 participants.

A plurality of plans are for service or manufacturing businesses. Syracuse Label at Cicero adopted an employee stock ownership plan in 2007.

Mower joined Silverman Advertising in 1968 and later bought out its owner, Art Silverman, and renamed the agency Mower & Associates. In 2018, he shortened his name to Mower.

Over the decades, Mower has grown the company into one of the largest independent marketing, advertising and public relations agencies in the United States.

Mower said he plans to retire one day, but will continue to serve as the agency’s chairman and CEO for the time being.

“I love every day,” he said. “I like the job.”

In this type of business structure, ownership of a business is sold to the employee stock ownership plan at no cost to employees. The plan repays the owner – in this case, Mower – over time from business profits, much like a mortgage is paid off.

As the plan repays Mower, current and future employees will receive shares of the company based on their salary relative to the company’s overall payroll.

When an employee leaves the agency after a five-year vesting period, the cash value of those shares is paid to the employee, much like a profit-sharing plan does.

Mower said the plan will help the agency recruit and retain employees because of the added financial benefits and job security it provides.

The agency employs 150 people in offices in New York, Buffalo, Albany, Rochester, Syracuse, Chicago, Atlanta, Boston, Denver, Miami, Charlotte and Cincinnati.

The agency said its management team would remain in place. In addition to Mower, the team includes President and COO Stephanie Crockett; Vice President – ​​Chief Brand Officer Doug Bean; administrative director Chris Steenstra; CFO Cheryl Duggan; creative director Doug Kamp; and Executive Vice President – General Manager, Public Relations and Public Affairs Rick Lyke.

Rick Moriarty covers economic news and consumer issues. Have a tip, comment or story idea? Contact him at any time: E-mail | Twitter | Facebook | 315-470-3148

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