Richer Sounds staff get richer as boss hands control to workers

Richer Sounds staff get richer as boss copies John Lewis to hand control of hi-fi chain to workers with £3.5m windfall that means some will get more than £20,000 each

  • Julian Richer has handed control of his business over to his 522 employees
  • Staff will get £1,000 for each year they have worked at the firm, sharing £3.5m
  • Richer, 60, opened first branch of the store in 1978 in London Bridge aged 19  

Julian Richer announced he has transferred 60 per cent of his holding in the business into an employee ownership trust

Richer Sounds staff across the UK have woken up richer today after their boss handed control of the business to them.  

More than 520 staff at the hi-fi and TV retail chain will share £3.5 million in cash bonuses after the firm’s founder Julian Richer transferred 60 per cent of his holding in the business into an employee ownership trust.

Each of its 522 employees will pick up £1,000 for every year worked at the firm, meaning an average payout of £8,000. 

The move comes as a shot in the arm to some 39 long-serving staff who have clocked up more than 20 years at the group – and will now pick up hefty windfalls. 

The move will see him land £9.2 million for the stake, although £3.5 million will be handed straight back to staff as loyalty bonuses.   

Mr Richer said the ‘time was right’ to hand over the ownership of the business to staff – an announcement that also came as he stepped down from the day-to-day running of the firm.

The firm started in budget hi-fi, but in more recent years has also gained a significant reputation in TV, home cinema systems and premium audio

Richer Sounds, which has 53 stores, refuses to use zero-hours contracts and ‘has doors on shops to protect colleagues from the prolonged dangers of pollution.’

It also offers a Helping Hand Fund provides for staff in cases of emergency. 

Employee perks include access to company-paid holiday homes around the world, including in Paris, Venice and Barcelona.

Other benefits include private doctor consultations and subsidised gym membership. 

It donates 15 per cent of all profits, which last year stood at £9.6m, to charity. More than 400 charities last year received donations from the company. 

Richer Unsigned, a not-for-profit organisation we set up in 2014, helps aspiring musicians. 

What is Richer Sounds? 

Julian Richer began buying and selling hi-fi separates at school when he was 14. 

In 1978, aged 19, he opened his first shop on London Bridge Walk with the help of the late Vic Odden, a photography retailer. 

He now has some 53 stores nationwide, online, as well as a telesales and business to business departments. 

The firm started in budget hi-fi, but in more recent years has also gained a significant reputation in TV, home cinema systems and premium audio. 

The company also says: ‘We pay our bills on time (or even early!), doing our bit to help our suppliers avoid cash flow problems. In fact our average payment time is 18 days – over twice as fast as the national norm.’

Mr Richer said: ‘I have always planned to leave my company in trust on my death for the benefit of the colleagues in the business.

‘Having hit the ripe old age of 60 in March, I felt the time was right, rather than leaving it until I’m not around, to ensure that the transition goes smoothly and I can be part of it.’

He plans to stay involved in the business, but passes over the daily running to the management board, along with a newly set up colleagues’ advisory council and trustees.

The colleagues’ advisory council will be chaired by a trustee and will be made up of current staff and will represent their interests and concerns.

David Robinson, chairman of Richer Sounds, said: ‘It’s incredibly exciting times and allows our colleagues to feel even more connected to the company.

‘They have a real stake in the success of the business and can take pride in knowing that they are shareholders, building for the future.’

Julia Richer pictured at one of his stalls in 1991

Richer Sounds, which has 53 stores across the UK, has been working on the employee ownership trust plans for the past 18 months with legal and accountancy firm RSM.

Mr Richer, who founded the business in 1978 at the age of 19, had long planned to hand control of the firm to staff and had already written the plan into his will, but wanted to ensure he could oversee the transition.

Called the Richer Sounds Trust, the employee ownership plan will run according to a set of principles to make sure the firm ‘continues to operate in a responsible manner, and is based on honesty, commitment, trust and respect’, according to the group.

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