The Scottish Gallery becomes Employee Ownership Trust

From left - Christina Jansen, Kirsty Sumerling and Tommy Zwy
From left - Christina Jansen, Kirsty Sumerling and Tommy Zwy

Scotland’s oldest commercial art gallery is to be acquired by an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) as of October 2019.  The Scottish Gallery has traded continually since 1842, and the EOT structure is the latest in a variety of ownership models the Gallery has adapted over its long history.

There are currently 12 part-time and full-time employees at the gallery.

Managing Director Christina Jansen has presided over several years of success and innovation and with advice from Carole Leslie from Ownership Associates (employment ownership specialists) saw the opportunity for both continuity and ownership transformation.  Shareholders, including Gallery Director Guy Peploe who has served 35 years with the company, agreed to sell to the trust ensuring that The Scottish Gallery has a stable, Scottish based owner as well as continuity of management and all the benefits of employee ownership.

The Scottish Gallery has championed contemporary art since its inception.  Current exhibitions include a retrospective from Victoria Crowe, art from Rebecca Collins and jewellery from Jackie Lillie.  Forthcoming exhibitions include work from Kate Downie, and recent Glasgow School of Art graduate Hannah Mooney who was awarded the Fleming-Wyfold Bursary in 2018.

Guy Peploe says “I look forward to many more years of involvement in a future proof structure that should see The Scottish Gallery past its bicentenary.  We are grateful to our chairman Will Whitehorn  (also chairman of SEC and deputy chairman of Stagecoach) who is the architect of this project and a good example of a chairman acting in the interests of the company,  the shareholders, the staff, our heritage and our future.”

Christina Jansen, Managing Director of The Scottish Gallery says “I am thrilled to be able to make this announcement alongside my fellow Directors and wonderful team here, and to reassure all our artists and stakeholders about our commitment to the future. We are also delighted to announce that Kirsty Sumerling now joins the board of Directors. Kirsty has been with The Gallery since 2014. She specialises in contemporary objects and has made a significant contribution to the running and development of The Gallery.”

Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates says “The Scottish Gallery had been through many forms of ownership over the years.  A sale to an individual, or indeed a corporate shareholder, might have been the easiest route. However, Guy Peploe and his fellow directors were keen to find a succession solution that secured the future of the Gallery for the long term. By selling to the employees, this iconic Scottish institution will continue to bring pleasure to locals and visitors for many generations to come.” 

Co-operative Development Scotland – the arm of Scottish Enterprise which supports business growth by promoting collaborative and employee ownership models – supported the directors by providing a business succession review and employee ownership feasibility study.  Carole Leslie of Ownership Associates guided the team through the transition process.  Legal services were provided by Douglas Roberts of Lindsays.

Head of Co-operative Development Scotland, Clare Alexander, said: “It’s fantastic news that The Scottish Gallery has made the move to employee ownership. Statistics consistently demonstrate that employee-owned businesses benefit from higher levels of engagement and enhanced employee wellbeing, which can increase productivity and drive growth. The new structure marks a significant milestone in the gallery’s long history, and we wish the team every success for the future.”

There are around 110 employee-owned companies operating in Scotland, with approximately 7,500 employee-owners generating a combined turnover of around £950 million. 

Bank of Scotland provided a funding package to support the Employee Ownership Trust’s acquisition of the business.

Stuart McNaughtonrelationship manager at Bank of Scotland, said: “The Scottish Gallery is a lynchpin of Edinburgh’s vibrant and internationally renowned art community. We’re proud to support a shift in ownership model that safeguards its heritage and puts employees at the heart of its future.

“Employee ownership is gaining in popularity and the gallery views the model as a perfect fit. This agreement means the site will continue to provide a platform for Scottish creatives while employees share in its success.

“Every growth strategy is unique, which is why we’ve committed to lending up to £1.6 billion to Scottish firms in 2019 to help them achieve their individual ambitions.” 

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