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A Partnership in Peril?
The employee-owned status of The John Lewis Partnership, an iconic employee-owned firm, is in question
In Brief: The John Lewis Partnership has recently been in the headlines due to its financial struggles and the potential that outside investment - which would require modification to the firm’s famous employee-owned model – could be coming.
The History: The John Lewis Partnership is one of the largest and most well known employee-owned businesses. Operating inside of the United Kingdom with more than 74,000 employees, the partnership has been structured with employees as owners since the early 20th century.
Why It Matters: As mentioned above, the John Lewis Partnership is known worldwide for their revolutionary employee-owned structure. Because the firm is one of the first and most iconic employee-owned firms, there is fear that the company being restructured- and no longer fully employee owned - would be a blow to the growing employee ownership movement. Such a public switch would provide fodder for critics and detractors to claim that employee ownership is not a sustainable or successful business model.
What’s Next: While fear remains that the partnership could be forced to restructure and sell shares to outside investors, Chairman Sharon Stone has attempted to dispel this anxiety by stating that “John Lewis will always be employee owned.” Stone survived a vote of confidence held on Wednesday, yet questions remain surrounding her leadership and the future of the Partnership.