handed quite the surprise on Tuesday US time

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Chobani yoghurt’s handout makes staff millionairesStephanie Strom Apr 27 2016 The 2000 full-time employees of yoghurt company Chobani were handed quite the surprise on Tuesday US time: an ownership stake that could make some of them millionaires. Hamdi Ulukaya, the Turkish immigrant who founded Chobani in 2005, told workers at the company’s plant here in upstate New York that he would be giving them shares worth up to 10 per cent of the company when it goes public or is sold. The goal, he said, is to pass along the wealth they have helped build in the decade since the company started. Chobani is now widely considered to be worth several billion dollars. “I’ve built something I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people,” Mr Ulukaya said in an interview in his Manhattan office that was granted on the condition that no details of the program would be disclosed before the announcement.“Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” he said. Chobani employees received the news on Tuesday morning. Each worker received a white packet; inside was information about how many Chobani shares they were given. The number of shares given to each person is based on tenure, so the longer an employee has been at the company, the bigger the stake. Two years ago, when Chobani received a loan from TPG Capital, a private equity firm, the company’s value was estimated at $US3 billion to $US5 billion. At the $US3 billion valuation, the average employee payout would be $US 150,000. The earliest employees, though, will most likely be given many more shares, possibly worth over $US1 million ($1.29 million). Rich Lake, lead project manager, was one of the original group of five employees Mr Ulukaya hired for the plant in New Berlin. Mr Lake, whose son is grown, said on Tuesday that he did not expect Chobani shares to change his life much. “I’m not one for living outside my means,” he said.Rather, he said, the shares are an acknowledgment of what he and the other employees have put into Chobani. “It’s better than a bonus or a raise,” Mr Lake said. “It’s the best thing because you’re getting a piece of this thing you helped build.” The transfer of money by Mr Ulukaya touches on a hot-button economic issue: the rapidly expanding gap in pay between executives and average workers. The United States has one of the widest pay gaps, and the topic has played a prominent role in this year’s presidential race, particularly among the Democrats. Some other executives have also taken this issue on themselves. A founder of Gravity Payments, a Seattle-based credit-card payment processing firm, last year promised to pay a minimum wage of $US70,000 to his 120-person staff within three years. The shares given to Chobani employees are coming directly from Mr Ulukaya. The shares can be sold if the company goes public or is bought by another business, neither of which seems

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