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Press Releases

The ESOP Association Statement on the Passing of Gardener’s Supply Company Founder Will Raap

The ESOP Association


Washington, D.C. – The ESOP Association released the following statement on the unexpected passing of Will Raap, a visionary leader in employee ownership, organic gardening, and locally sourced and sustainable food. Raap founded Gardener’s Supply Company in Burlington, VT and at a very early stage incorporated an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) into the business ownership structure. This structure of employee inclusion in wealth creation was central to his vision for workplace and business ethics. Raap was also a global leader in the organic food movement and the development of sustainable, local sources of food. He founded the Intervale Center in Burlington, VT that has spawned dozens of local, sustainable farms and agriculture throughout the state and New England.

“We are all shocked and saddened by the news of Will Raap’s passing. Our hearts go out to his family and to the employee owners of Gardener’s Supply,” said Jim Bonham, President & CEO of The ESOP Association. “Will was an extraordinary human whose life example will provide lessons to many of us for years to come. His legacy stands apart from even the most generous of founders because he included ownership for employees almost from the very beginning at Gardener’s.

“Employee participation in the wealth they create was part of Will’s vision of what a business should be. In fact, their ESOP was not so much a sale to the employees - a mere transaction – as much as it is a core part of who they are as a company. What many people may not realize is that Gardener’s Supply is employee-owned today mostly because over the years it was funded in small increments from profits – sometimes very meager profits – that somebody other than Will would have kept for themselves. Will truly walked the walk,” Bonham continued.

“He will be missed and I consider myself a better person for having had the chance to meet him and understand firsthand his vision for what employee ownership could mean for good business and everyday workers.”



About the ESOP Association

The ESOP Association is the largest organization in the world supporting employee owned companies, the more than 10 million U.S. employees who participate in an ESOP, and the professionals who provide services to them. Headquartered at the International Employee Ownership Center in Washington, DC and operating as a 501(c)6 organization with the affiliated Employee Ownership Foundation, The ESOP Association conducts and funds academic research, provides more than 160 annual conferences and events attended by nearly 15,000 individuals, and advocates on behalf of employee owners and their businesses to federal and state lawmakers.

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