On Tuesday morning, at the Chobani headquarters in upstate New York, some 2,000 employees of the Greek yogurt company were surprised to find white envelopes waiting for them at work. For many, the packets contained a life-changing award from Chobani’s chairman and CEO, Hamdi Ulukaya: a stake in a company thought to be valued at $3 billion to $5 billion. According to a report from The New York Times, the shares will be worth up to 10% of the company and could make some long-standing, full-time employees millionaires.
"This isn’t a gift. It’s a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility. To continue to create something special and of lasting value," Ulukaya, who founded the company in 2005 after immigrating from Turkey, wrote in a letter to staff Tuesday. "How we built this company matters to me, but how we grow it matters even more. I want you not only to be a part of this growth—I want you to be the driving force of it. To share in our success, to be rewarded by it."
The majority of Chobani’s employees stand to make around $150,000, and can sell the shares on the private market. But should the company be sold or go public—a possibility The Times says is not “imminent,” at the moment—staff members who have been with Chobani from the beginning could walk away with over $1 million.
The stocks, called “Chobani Shares,” are coming directly from Ulukaya. It’s an unusual act of generosity from a successful CEO, but Business Insider notes that Ulukaya already promised to donate half of his money (estimated at $1.82 billion) after committing to Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge last May.
“I don't believe that you need to leave your business to do social good," he said at the time.
In a series of photos posted to his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon, a beaming Ulukaya can be seen handing out the white envelopes to his employees in person.
“My lifelong dream is now a reality: starting today, I will have 2,000 partners at Chobani,” he wrote. “There is no better feeling than sharing success with everyone who helped create it. This is one of the finest moments of my life!”
First We Feast obtained the full letter sent to employees, which you can read below:
Letter from Hamdi to the company:
Dear Chobani Family:
We’ve always been a different kind of company.
Deep values, a strict food philosophy, incredible makers—driven by our mission and our spirit.
For us, it’s always been about giving back—making our communities stronger, giving people opportunity and access. Never forgetting about what we’re doing and who we’re doing it for.
We make delicious, nutritious, natural and accessible food, but we stand for things even bigger than what we make.
My dream, from day one, was to share our success with this entire family—for us all to have a stake in our future, working together to grow Chobani and furthering our mission as a modern food company.
We’ve been on this journey for almost 10 years now and I’m so proud of what we’ve done.
Today, we’re beginning a new chapter for Chobani, and starting now we all have an opportunity to be a part of Chobani’s future. We’re calling it Chobani Shares, and every full-time member of the team will receive awards that provide an opportunity to share in the growth of the company over time.
This isn’t a gift. It’s a mutual promise to work together with a shared purpose and responsibility. To continue to create something special and of lasting value.
How we built this company matters to me, but how we grow it matters even more. I want you not only to be a part of this growth—I want you to be the driving force of it. To share in our success, to be rewarded by it.
We have a lot of opportunity to grab in the years to come, and when we do, we will not only fulfill our mission, we’ll take care of each other, our families and our communities.
I couldn’t be more proud to share Chobani with you, and I couldn’t be more optimistic for where we’re going.
Thank you for your hard work and dedication to Chobani.
Let’s do this together!
[via New York Times]