Jean Charles and Helene Rinn, the owners and managers of Adam, the French number one in wood packaging, will soon only hold 75% of their company. By the summer, they will have donated 25% of the capital to a shareholder foundation. Jean-Charles Rinn had immediately ruled out the idea of employee shareholding.
“I dreamed of a free transmission of the company to the employees, because the monetized transfer does not interest us. It means either the indebtedness of the employees or that of the company in the case of a SCOP, which contributes to weakening it. This formula of free transfer to staff not being possible, we opted for the formula of the shareholder foundation, ”explains the boss of this SME based in Sainte-Hélène, in Gironde.
Very widespread in the Nordic countries, there are barely more than twenty shareholder foundations in France, like the Pierre Fabre laboratory, owned by a foundation recognized as being of public utility (FRUP). Adam has chosen the status of shareholder endowment fund (FDD), more accessible to SMEs and ETIs, whether it is the Mediapart newspaper, the specialist in organic food and cosmetics Lea Nature or the pallet manufacturer of Archimbaud wood.
For most of these companies belonging de facto to the community, the challenge is often the same: to enable the transfer of the company by ensuring its sustainability, independence or territorial anchoring. “The foundation that owns the company plays a dual role. It is a stable and long-term shareholder who also exercises a philanthropic mission by supporting causes of general interest”, specifies Virginia Seghersco-founder of Prophila consulting firm specializing in the field.
An approach that corresponds to Jean-Charles Rinn’s vision of the company. The engineer who worked for LVMH (owner of “Les Echos”) took over the more than a century-old company through two successive leveraged buyouts (LBOs), in 1996 and then in 2009. After a very difficult period, he has since bet a decade of upgrading and innovation, involving employees in projects and promoting the use of local wood. “The consultants explained to us at the time that there was no salvation apart from subcontracting”, recalls Jean-Charles Rinn.
Adam, who employs 65 people, achieved last year a turnover of 11 million euros for a result of 400,000 euros, of which 30% are redistributed to employees, and the rest reinvested in the company. The ambition of the Rinn couple, who have three children, is that the foundation will eventually become a majority shareholder. “The dispossession of capital is a long process and we are giving ourselves five years to decide”, specifies Jean-Charles Rinn.