21 staff to become owners

Employees take control at Black Light

Black LightAn Edinburgh company which has designed light installations for the SSE Hydro and Gleneagles Hotel has announced it is to become employee-owned.

The move by Black Light will see its 21 members of staff given the opportunity to become owners in the business.

Black Light designs, supplies and installs lighting and AV equipment to theatre, architecture, education, entertainment and retail. The company has an annual turnover of £3 million

The business was founded more than 30 years ago by Gavin Stewart as a mobile disco. In the years’ since it has developed a worldwide reputation for its innovative lighting solutions, with other projects including the Botanic Lights at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens.

Gavin Stewart, managing director, said: “I was looking for an exit strategy that allowed the firm to continue to grow and flourish. A sale to the employees recognises the contribution and commitment Black Light’s staff has made to the company’s success.”

An Employee Ownership Trust will buy the shares from Mr Stewart and hold them on behalf of the employees who will be given the opportunity to invest in the company.  The deal will be financed by a vendor loan, repayable over a five-year period.

Graham Purvis joined Black Light in 2014 as general manager and will now become an employee-owner. He said: “I see this as a very positive move for the business. We’re grateful to Gavin for this opportunity and it is now up to us to forge our own future.”

Recent research showed there are 71 employee-owned companies in Scotland, with about 6,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of about £900m.

Black Light’s move to employee ownership is being project managed by Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates. She said: “Gavin Stewart is demonstrating tremendous vision in choosing this path for the business. Employee-owned companies have been proven to be more sustainably successful, with higher productivity and profitability than conventionally structured firms.”

New legislation passed last year provided a tax incentive for business owners by removing Capital Gains Tax liability in qualifying employee ownership transactions.

Martyn Shaw, partner, MacRoberts, said: “Employee ownership is increasingly attractive as an exit route for business owners, and can bring real benefits for the company’s staff. The recent tax changes are an incentive but for most owners the ability to secure the future of the company is a stronger driver.”

Black Light is also being supported in its transition to employee ownership by Co-operative Development Scotland, the arm of Scottish Enterprise which promotes collaborative business models.

Sarah Deas, chief executive, Co-operative Development Scotland, said: “I look forward to welcoming Black Light into the growing community of thriving employee owned firms in Scotland.”

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