Successful Cooperative Ownership Transitions: Case Studies on the Conversion of Privately Held Businesses to Worker Cooperatives

Courtney Berner, Michaela Holmes, Anne Reynolds, and Joe Rinehart
Affiliated Organization: 
University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives and Democracy at Work Institute

The idea of selling a business to its employees and converting it to a worker owned cooperative is gaining traction as a viable succession strategy. It is a strategy that saves jobs, builds community wealth, and empowers workers to own and manage their own business. Worker cooperatives differ from other business entity types in that they are owned and democratically controlled by their workers, and workers share in the risk and reward of operating the business.

While the potential for cooperative business conversions is great, data on conversions is limited. Motivated by the lack of existing research and the opportunity to save quality jobs and strengthen communities, the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives and the Democracy At Work Institute embarked on a joint research project to document the stories of successful cooperative conversions. The goals of this project were to illumintate best practices in cooperative conversions and to gain a better understanding of how to more effectively support businesses interested in exploring conversion. 

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