The Bull Moose music store, which provides Maine’s only independent entertainment retailers, has announced a plan to become 100 percent employee owned.
The plan to transition to an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, in the coming months was announced by Bull Moose founder Brett Wickard on Tuesday.
The sale is expected to “to build a platform for employees to have more control and input into company operations, to create financial security for their future and to provide more earning opportunities,” Wickard said.
Eligible employees will be granted stock from the ESOP Trust, which bought out 100 percent of the company’s stock from Wickard, and will be represented by an ESOP Committee.
Wickard will continue to function as interim CEO and Chair of the Board of Directors as the transition occurs. Following the transition, the Board of Directors will be overseen by the ESOP Committee.
Founded in Brunswick in 1989 by Wickard, Bull Moose has been a beloved hub for music, film and gaming fans in Maine and New Hampshire. The store closed its Portland location in November of 2020, leaving it with eight stores in Maine and three in New Hampshire.
The company has expressed intent to open a new Portland location, according to Diana Nelson, a spokesperson for Bull Moose, but the goal is “part of the long term plan,” and no active process has been undertaken at this time.
The company was met with backlash in the summer of 2021, after multiple employees said that their concerns about handling COVID-19 customer safety protocols were not being addressed.
Twenty employees alleged that they were fired from the Salem, New Hampshire store after a build-up of concerns over enforcing the store’s masking requirements that were not handled properly by upper management. The employees also believed that discussion of forming a labor union contributed to their termination.
Wickard later issued a statement apologizing for the handling of employee concerns, and offered all of the terminated employees their positions back. He also pledged to give Salem workers “the support, training and care they so deserve,” and give them “a stronger voice in company directions that impact them.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that the Portland Bull Moose store closed weeks after Portland’s wage increase referendum. The decision was made independently of the referendum.