How an Architecture Firm Sold Out…by Not Selling Out

Architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross finds a creative solution to its own business succession, transferring ownership to employees via an ESOP

May 19, 2015, 14:00 ET from Ayers Saint Gross

BALTIMORE, May 19, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Nationally known for its innovative design work in higher education, Ayers Saint Gross is using an equally innovative approach - an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) – to transition management and ownership of the firm.

To ensure the firm's legacy of creativity and enable continued growth and success, Ayers Saint Gross' leadership team of Adam Gross, FAIA, Principal; Jim Wheeler, AIA, LEED AP, President; and Glenn Birx, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal and Vice President, went looking for an out-of-the-ordinary solution to succession. That solution was an ESOP, an under-utilized business transition tool that can reward both owners and employees and smooth the segue from one generation to the next.

While Gross, Wheeler and Birx will continue to play integral roles, they have identified the next generation leader. Effective January 1, 2016, Luanne Greene, FAIA, LEED AP, Principal and Director of the Campus Planning Studio, will become President, the first woman to lead the firm in its 100-year history.

Throughout her career, Greene has established new benchmarks in campus planning that have influenced institutions, architects, and planners nationwide by integrating strategic planning, culture and context into campus design, changing the way American universities and cultural institutions understand the power of their "place" to support a culture of excellence. Greene was recently named to the American Institute of Architects (AIA) College of Fellows.

Although ESOPs may be little known, in the right circumstances, these vehicles are a mutually beneficial option for leadership and employees. ESOPs are when the company buys some or all of the stock of a company and creates a trust for the long-term benefit of the employees. Research shows that when ESOPs are well structured and managed, they out perform other companies. Employee participants in an ESOP typically earn five to 12 percent more in wages and three times more in retirement assets than non-ESOP counterparts.

About Ayers Saint Gross
Founded in 1912, Ayers Saint Gross is headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland with offices in Washington, DC and Tempe, Arizona. Ayers Saint Gross employs an interdisciplinary staff of 150 professionals. The 102-year-old firm specializes in planning, building architecture, graphic designs and landscapes for institutional clients. Ayers Saint Gross projects can now be seen at 250 college campuses in 18 countries, as well as at leading national and international institutions. For more information about Ayers Saint Gross, visit

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SOURCE Ayers Saint Gross