Oscar-winning studio Aardman Animations has announced that 75% of the studio’s ownership will be transferred to its 140 employees, effectively selling the company to the workforce.
Announcing the news with a statement on the company’s website, Aardman co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton said that they were “not quitting yet”.
The transfer of ownership will keep the independence of the studio and secure the creative legacy and culture of the studio.
“We are preparing for our future. This approach, the creation of an employee trust, 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. And of course, those that create value in the company will continue to benefit directly from the value they create,” said Lord and Sproxton.
“The statistics show that employee owned companies are significantly more successful than conventionally owned companies. So we are very excited by the prospect of seeing Aardman roll far into the future under this arrangement and can rest easy that those four decades which have slipped by have paved the way for many more years of great creativity,” they continued.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sproxton admitted that selling Aardman to other studios would be risky for the current staff.
“In an age of uncertainty there is a sense of security as [our staff] know their job is safe as long as they come up with ideas.
“If we sold Aardman [to a big studio] it would just become an asset on the balance sheet to be traded. They could say, let’s turn it all over to CGI and shoot it in Singapore.”
The running of Aardman will receive input from the employees via a workers council. The senior team will sit on a new board of directors which will lead the business and decide on the staff bonus, reporting to the trust’s board. The employees will continue to receive a share of the profits.
David Sproxton will continue as managing director and look to appoint a new MD within the next 12 months to replace him.
Peter Lord will remain in his role as creative director with a focus on the company’s feature film output. This includes Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddo due for release in autumn 2019 and Chicken Run 2, currently in development.
The two founded Aardman in 1972.