Chobani Boss May Turn Workers Into Millionaires

They're getting a stake in the company
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 27, 2016 11:27 AM CDT
Chobani Boss May Turn Workers Into Millionaires
Chobani founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya.   (Mark Von Holden/AP Images for Chobani, LLC)

People who took a job with a then-fledgling yogurt company named Chobani a decade ago in upstate New York have to be pretty happy with their decision. On Tuesday, founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya announced that employees were getting a stake in the company based on tenure, reports the Albany Times Union. The average payout works out to be about $150,000, but those who've been with Chobani from the start would receive more than $1 million, reports the New York Times. In all, Ulukaya is divvying up 10% of the company shares among his 2,000 full-time employees, and they'd be able to cash in when the company is sold or goes public.

"Now they'll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time," says Ulukaya, a 43-year-old Turkish immigrant. He converted an old Kraft plant into his Chobani factory 10 years ago in South Edmeston, with help from a loan by the Small Business Administration. Ulukaya has a philanthropic track record, including a foundation to which he donates 10% of post-tax profits, though the New York Post suggests this latest gesture is more about business than generosity. It would weaken the clout of private equity firm TPG, which bailed out the company with a loan in 2014 and is poised to claim a 20% stake—which would be calculated from the remaining 90% of shares. "Very clever power play," says one analyst. "TPG may have been surprised that Hamdi was willing to give up 10% of the company just to dilute them." (Read more Chobani stories.)

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