Top 50 employee owned companies in 2019

RM2 does the research for the Employee Ownership Top 50, a list of the largest 50 private employee-owned companies in the UK which has been prepared annually since 2014. RM2 publishes the list in a partnership with the Employee Ownership Association (EOA).


Key findings:

By tracking the changes in the Top 50 list year-on-year, we get an insight into the performance of the largest employee-owned companies in the UK – how much they have grown, how profitable they are, which trade sectors they operate in, and what legal forms they take.


This year, the list has shrunk slightly in size, from 171,000 employees in total last year to 166,000 employees this year. This is mainly down to two large companies leaving the list (AT Kearney and CH2M) and being replaced by smaller companies. Also, the largest company on the list, the John Lewis Partnership, has reduced partner numbers by 1% as the company adjusts to the challenges in the retail sector.


However, it would be wrong to conclude that this slight shrinkage in the Top 50 means that the employee ownership sector as a whole is contracting. On the contrary, it is thriving. We know from our parallel work on the EOT Survey (to be published shortly) that the number of Employee Ownership Trusts is increasing at a rate of 40% per annum.  here are forecast to be 300 EOT-owned companies by the end of this year, but most have fewer than 400 employees, (the cut-off to gain entry to the prestigious Top 50). Only 10 EOTs are big enough to be included.


So the shape of the sector is changing, not its overall size. The Top 50 represent a smaller proportion of the whole sector, and there is a great deal of growth and new EOT activity “below the radar”.


Key facts for 2019:

  • There are two new entrants: Richer Sounds and Bromley Healthcare.
  • Combined sales for the Top 50 is £19.2 billion, which is up 3.5% on a like-for-like basis.
  • Total employees for the Top 50 is 166,000 which is up 1.4% on a like-for-like basis. This is despite partner numbers at John Lewis Partnership being down 1%.
  • The median change in operating profit for the Top 50 is plus 3.0%.
  • The mean increase in productivity, defined as value added per employee, was 7.7% on a like-for-like basis.
  • Wages per employee increased by 2.5% on a like-for-like basis.
  • 60% of the companies in the Top 50 have no debt.
  • The number of employees needed to qualify for inclusion in the Top 50 is now 403. Last year it was 389. In 2014, when the Top 50 list was first published, it was 143.
  • “like for like”  means we compare each of the 50 companies on this year’s list against its own prior year results.


If you would like to explore what is Employee Ownership why not download our free fact sheet, or if you would like a more in-depth insight we have published a book “The UK Employee Ownership Trust”. Contact us on 0208 949 5522 or email