Georgia Theatre Company, a fourth-generation, family-owned theater circuit based in St. Simons Island, Georgia, has completed a sale of 100% of its stock to the Georgia Theatre Company Employee Stock Ownership Trust (ESOT).
The original company founded in the mid-1920s has roots operating theatres in Glynn County and approximately 20 other communities in Georgia for nearly 100 years. Over the past three decades, founder and chairman William (Bill) J. Stembler has grown this latest company from just a few locations with about $5 million in annual revenue to 25 locations with revenue surpassing $75 million annually and a team of approximately 700 employees.
“Our employees are the foundation of Georgia Theatre Company,” said Stembler. “By transitioning to an employee-owned company, we are empowering them to play an integral role in the company’s future. My family and I are grateful for this opportunity to reward our employees for their hard work, loyalty, and contributions by creating the Employee Stock Ownership Plan [ESOP].”
An ESOP is an employee benefit plan which provides company stock to eligible employees. Eligibility is governed by ERISA and administered by an independent trustee. By becoming 100% ESOP-owned, all company stock is now held in trust by the ESOT. As an employee-owned company, Georgia Theatre Company will retain the same management structure, with Stembler remaining chairman of the board. Stembler added, “Our operational model that has served us well for over 28 years will continue. We strive to provide a comfortable, clean environment to enjoy a movie with a few friends or a crowd of strangers on a big screen.”
CFO Mike Warren and president Bo Chambliss will also continue in their positions of leadership of the company. “This is an exciting day for Georgia Theatre Company,” said Chambliss. “Employee-owned companies are renowned as some of the world’s best companies to work for, and we are honored to be joining the list. Converting to an ESOP is a great opportunity for all of our employees. We all have the ability to make a difference, from the experience our customers receive to the financial value of our company. We believe this will be a key tool to attract and retain top talent to work for Georgia Theatre Company.”