Van Horn Group now partially employee owned

Van Horn Automotive Group Inc., headquartered in Plymouth, is now partially employee-owned and is the first employee-owned automotive dealership in Wisconsin. Nationally, there are less than a dozen employee-owned dealerships or dealer groups.

A 30 percent stake in ownership has been handed over to the employees of the second-generation, familyowned company as part of its 50th anniversary celebration through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan, or ESOP.

With no long-term succession plan in place, Chuck Van Horn, CEO and majority owner of the automotive group, chose to give part of the company to his employees. He transferred thirty percent of the ownership from his stake. In addition to Van Horn, his sister Teresa Van Horn and brother, James (JP) Van Horn are minority owners.

“I wanted to turn the company over to the employees, the ones who got us to where we are now. Who better to sustain the success of the organization than those who built it? The best way to keep a good employee is to treat them well, train them, pay them well, and reward them with a healthy pension when they leave. The Employee Stock Ownership Plan allows us to do all these things,” said owner Chuck Van Horn.

An ESOP is a retirement plan that gives employees an ownership interest in the company with no out-of-pocket expenses. Employees share in the value of the company as beneficial owners through an ESOP trust.

Van Horn said he hopes the ESOP will give him a competitive edge in recruiting and retaining good employees.

“I know some dealers who don’t even offer health coverage,” he said. “I’m in a business that’s notorious for high turnover. If I can create a culture where employees feel safe and secure at the end of their career, it would help.”

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