An independent television company in Caernarfon is being handed over to its workforce.
Around fifty staff at Cwmni Da, based at Victoria Dock, will form an Employee Owned Trust to take over the production firm, which makes S4C shows including Noson Lawen, Dim Byd and FFit Cymru.
Cwmni Da’s owner, Dylan Huws, says he will stay on as its managing director for the next three years. Two of its founding directors, Neville Hughes and Ifor ap Glyn, stepped down last December, but they continue as executive producers.
The move is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK broadcast industry. Mr Huws said it would ensure the company would remain in the hands of staff who had contributed to its success.
He said: ”I was also aware that it was now time to prepare the way for the next generation and the next exciting stage in the company’s story.”
”Creating an Employee-Owned Trust feels like it is a perfect fit because I believe passionately that the staff are a key part of the business and that they can all benefit from their efforts.”
”It places a value on the wider significance of Cwmni Da to the Caernarfon area and will ensure the company remains in the control of local Welsh people.”
Founded in 1997, Cwmni Da has become one of the main North Walian producers of S4C’s output, including award-winning comedy, entertainment, children’s and factual shows. It’s also produced programmes for the BBC, ITV and a range of international broadcasters.
Five years ago, the company moved into a new £2 million studio at Goleuad, a former printworks located next to Galeri.
Staff-owned shares will be held in a fund – and if trustees decide Cwmni Da can share out profits, company employees could earn nearly £4,000 a year tax free.
Mr Huws said the move would also secure jobs amid consolidation in the Welsh independent production sector: ”In recent years, consolidation…has seen several Welsh companies being sold to larger entities, this means more often than not that ownership is no longer in Welsh hands.”
”It would be easy to sell Cwmni Da and then step away but I wouldn’t like to think that people that I believe in and respect suddenly lost their jobs because new owners had come in and wanted to do something different.”
”I went down the path of trying to look at different company models and structures and one that everyone is familiar with is John Lewis and Partners.”
”Although I am now the only shareholder, Neville and Ifor are also keen to ensure a successful future for Cwmni Da and they will remain involved with the company for some time.”
”Transforming the company into one that is owned by the employees is an exciting challenge that will ensure the talented staff who’ve been central to the success of Cwmni Da can continue to flourish.”
Cwmni Da has drawn up a five-year business plan to manage the sale of shares from Mr Huws. Three trustees have been hired, including one representing the workforce.
The company is currently worth around £5 million a year.
The announcement comes a month after S4C announced it would retain a Caernarfon office for at least the next ten years. The Welsh language broadcaster has kept a presence in the town, which is home to a cluster of ‘indie’ companies, including Rondo and Antena.