Apis & Heritage Capital Partners Completes First Two Transactions to Further Mission of Closing Racial Wealth Gap Through Novel Employee-Led Buyout Model

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Black-led Investment Fund A&H transitions Denver-based Apex Plumbing Co. and El Paso-based Accent Landscape Contractors Inc. into 100% employee-owned businesses, benefitting large BIPOC workforces and all workers generally

Apis & Heritage Capital Partners (A&H), an investment fund that finances the conversion of companies with substantial Black and Brown workforces into 100% employee-owned businesses, today announced that it has converted Denver-based Apex Plumbing Co. and El Paso-based Accent Landscape Contractors Inc. into 100% employee-owned enterprises.

“We’re immensely proud to announce these groundbreaking partnerships with Apex Plumbing and Accent Landscape Contractors. Not only will they preserve jobs and generate wealth for the employees, but they will also help to ensure the long-term sustainability of these great businesses in their communities,” said Todd Leverette, A&H Founding Partner. “We’re grateful to all of our partners, including Democracy at Work Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation, as well as visionary owners, Brian and DeAnn Wilkie of Apex Plumbing and Cameron Stevens of Accent Landscape Contractors, for sharing our vision of increasing economic equity and entrusting our fund with helping their employees to own their future.”

A&H finds businesses with large workforces of color where the owner is ready to retire and provides financing and technical support to convert the companies into 100% employee-owned businesses. Their novel “employee-led buyout” (ELBO) model is helping workers build wealth through ownership, especially Black and Brown workers who have historically been left out of such opportunities.

“Closing the racial wealth gap is why we created A&H. Today, over 40% of all Americans surveyed report they could not easily pay an unexpected $400 medical bill while about 2/3 of Black and Latino workers retire with no savings. Whereas, the average employee in an employee-owned business in the US nearing retirement has $147,000 in his or her ESOP account1, which we think will be transformative for our workers, their families, and their communities,” said Phil Reeves, A&H Founding Partner.

“Today is a great day for Apex Plumbing, and in particular, our employees who will now become owners. We built a great company over 35 years through dedication and the hard work of our team,” said Brian Wilkie, Co-Founder & Owner, Apex Plumbing. “By converting our company into an employee-owned business, we have provided an opportunity for all team members to reap the benefits of their hard work going forward through stock ownership. The future is literally in their hands, and we couldn’t be more excited for our company and its new owners, our employees. We deeply appreciate the A&H team for financing, supporting, and preparing our employees for this transition.”

“I could have sold my business to a competitor or private equity, but I know what can happen next – the culture changes and people get laid off. I didn’t want that for my employees. They are like family to me, and they helped build the company. A&H offered me a fair market price, did not require me to carry a large seller’s note, cut through all of the red tape, and showed me throughout the process that my workers were going to be able to carry Accent forward. I’d like to express my gratitude to A&H and their investment partners for making this transition to employee ownership possible,” said Cameron Stevens, Founder & Owner, Accent Landscape Contractors.

A&H, which is Black-owned and invests in companies where at least 40% of the workforce consists of workers of color, announced its first close at $30 million in June 2021 through its flagship Legacy Fund I. The fund was supported by investments from the Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Zero Gap Fund, The Skoll Foundation, Capricorn Investments, Gary Community Investments, Ascension Investment Management, and many other impact investing institutions and individuals.