Wisconsin furniture retailer WG&R converts to employee-owned company

The interior of the WG&R Furniture store in Ashwaubenon.

GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers aren’t the only local team to welcome newly-minted shareholders this year. 

WG&R Furniture ended 75 years of family ownership this week by converting ownership from CEO Jim Greene to an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. The company’s 280 employees now own WG&R, August Haven, WG&R Sleep Shop and WG&R bedding as well as the company’s other operations. 

Greene, the third generation of his family to run WG&R, took over the company in 2000 and will remain as CEO. Like all other employees, he will be an equal owner through the ESOP.

Greene said every business eventually faces ownership transitions and his preferred option was to give employees ownership of the company. Alternatives like selling to private equity firms or a competitor would not have been fair to employees who work hard everyday to make the company successful, he said.

“I’m proud of the legacy the ESOP will leave. All good things come to an end in terms of ownership. I just believe the people who make the company run need to benefit from the company’s existence,” Greene said. “There’s less risk of dramatic culture change or employees losing their jobs.”

WG&R Furniture CEO Jim Greene

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Greene said customers should not notice any difference in stores. 

An ESOP functions as a trust fund that owns the company. All full-time employees who meet some basic work requirements will be granted shares in the ESOP as part of their deferred compensation. Each plan may have unique rules and regulations to it. 


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