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How a mid-Michigan energy business set up a successful employee stock ownership plan

Business Next
February 2, 2017 11:00 AM

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Michael Rogers, communications officer for the Small Business Association of Michigan, interviews Tom Olive, president of Crystal Flash, to learn more about their employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

From their website: “In April 2016, Crystal Flash established the ESOP and announced that its 250 employees will become beneficial owners of the company. Crystal Flash, which is one of the largest privately held energy distributors in Michigan, has 14 locations across the state. The move came as members of the Fehsenfeld family decided to transition their interest in the company after more than 80 years and three generations of leadership. Establishing an ESOP was part of the company’s evolution that included the hiring Olive in 2015, when Chairman Tom Fehsenfeld retired from executive leadership.

The process also included strengthening the company’s board by adding three outside directors. John E. Fehsenfeld founded Crystal Flash in Indianapolis in 1932 with one truck and a rented fuel storage facility. His son, Frank, moved operations to Grand Rapids soon afterwards. The business moved from gas stations to the home heating business in the 1940s. Crystal Flash entered the propane business in the 1980s and expanded into commercial fleet fueling. The company exited the gasoline retail business in 2002 and focused on energy distribution; it subsequently purchased eight fuel companies as part of a planned growth strategy. Crystal Flash now focuses on the delivery of propane, diesel and other fuels to power home, fleet, farm or business.”

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