Aardman announces sale to employees to preserve creative culture

Aardman, the UK animation studio behind Shaun the Sheep and Wallace and Gromit, has announced that the company will be sold to its employees.

In a statement, Aardman’s co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton explained that they are selling 75 percent of Aardman Holdings to the company’s staff via a Trust:

“Over the last few years we have been thinking hard about the future of the company and ultimately how we exit from the business, yet leave Aardman in the best situation to carry on producing great work. The conclusion we have come to is to sell the company, but not in a conventional way. We have decided to sell the company to the people who work for it, making it an Employee Owned business.

“This approach, which entails the creation of a Trust to hold the majority of the shares on behalf of the workforce, is the best solution we have found for keeping Aardman doing what it does best; keeping the teams in place and providing continuity for our highly creative culture, to continue to produce exciting, imaginative, excellent work.”

Creative legacy

By selling to the Trust, Aardman will be able to maintain its independance, safeguarding the “creative legacy and culture of the company”.

The Guardian reports that the deal will be financed by £18 million from the company’s cash reserves.

In an interview Sproxton said: “We are balancing what we are comfortable taking out and what doesn’t stress the company out. We have been thinking about this a long time and built up considerable cash reserves so we could do this without borrowing any money.”

The 140 employees and 180 freelancers will own the majority stake in the business, similar to the way the John Lewis Partnership is organised. Staff will have their say in the running of the business via a workers council.

The current senior management will become an executive board to ensure continuity and smooth transition.

Nick Park, who joined Aardman in 1985 and has won four Oscars, will be a member of the new executive board.

Aardman brand development

Aardman made its debut in the attractions business with the dark ride Wallace & Gromit’s Thrill-O-Matic at Blackpool Pleasure Beach.  Shaun the Sheep is proving to be a hit IP in a wide range of attractions around the world.

Aardman has brought out its first major console game with a commemorative first world war game 11:11: Memories Retold. Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon will be released next year.