GO APE founders hand over control of adventure company to staff

EOA congratulates UK’s #1 adventure company transfers ownership to all its Employees

The founders of  EOA member Go Ape are handing control of the adventure group to staff, in a move that will give all employees an equal stake in the ownership and success of the business.

Founders Rebecca and Tristram Mayhew announced 90% of Go Ape shares will be transferred into a John Lewis-style trust, for the benefit of all current and future employees. They will tell their story at the EOA Conference on November 16 to kick-off the event which offers 40 networking and learning sessions live on the afternoons of the 16-18 November, as well as being available on demand for 60 days after the conference.

Since founding Go Ape in 2002, the proudly independent company has experienced ‘tree-mendous’ growth. Nearly 20 years on they have built a multi award-winning forest adventure business with 35 locations across Britain. It welcomes over a million customers a year and employs a team of a thousand in the UK. It has also branched out across the pond, with Go Ape operating in 16 states in America.

Chief Executive of the EOA, Deb Oxley OBE: “It is great to hear Go Ape will secure the values, culture and ethos they have built in the business and root jobs in the locations across the UK. Businesses in the leisure industry are seeing a boom after a period of uncertainty and it is great to see that this future can be taken forward by the employees. They have an amazing story to tell and I look forward to interviewing them for the plenary session that opens this year’s conference.

“During the pandemic we have seen huge growth in employee ownership with more than 250 new employee owned businesses created in 18 months, we see this trend continuing as founders have a sharper focus on succession and employee ownership is increasingly seen as an impact model for better business practices linked to ESG .”

GO APE co-founder Rebecca Mayhew said: “Go Ape has always felt like part of our family. We knew deep down we would never be comfortable selling the business to investors. We wanted to safeguard its independence for the long term and protect its adventurous spirit, culture and values. We also wanted to give back to the 1000 strong family who have contributed so much, letting them share more fully and equitably in the future direction and success of our brand.”

Her husband and  co-founder Tristram Mayhew added: “Transferring nearly all our shares into an Employee Owned Trust (“EOT”) enables us to remain connected as trustees, whilst setting our business family up for the long term. We trust and respect the tremendous team we have in place to deliver a successful future for everyone in Go Ape to share.   We didn’t want to hang on too long and not give them an independent future. We care deeply about the business and feel that this is a better, and very Go Ape way of transitioning, rather than selling out to the highest bidder.”

“We wanted Go Ape’s employees to own and control this great company of which we are all so proud.  We believe it gives Go Ape the best chance to flourish and are keen to remain part of the adventure, more in the role of grandparents of the business than as fully hands-on parents. Having successfully navigated the storm of the last 2 years, the team is more than ready to take over the helm. ”

Sarah Adcock, Customer Experience Manager, who has been with Go Ape since the early days, said: “It feels a bit cheesy to say I feel like part of the Go Ape family, but nearly 18 years ago, I bought in to the values and the culture that Tris and Becs created, and I’ve never looked back. It doesn’t feel like work, we do what we do because we care about creating the best adventures and experiences for our customers and because we enjoy doing that as part of a team. I know it will be hard for them to step back, because Go Ape is literally in their blood, same as ours now, but engaging in the employee ownership trust is another example of the fact that they care about our future, and they trust us – the team that they have nurtured to do the right thing and we will continue to make a success of this crazy adventure that they started. It is the people that make this business special, and these are exciting times.”

Nick Mallet, Commercial Site Manager at Go Ape Dalby commented: “Go Ape has employees that are passionate about what we deliver and all want to strive to be the best we can, and employee ownership lends itself perfectly towards this. The decision from the Directors and shareholders to go down this route is a bold move and yet it is the perfect direction allowing us all to be in charge of our own destiny and to ‘live life adventurously”

Nick Hall, Managing Director of Go Ape, said: “We have an amazing and loyal team at Go Ape who have a true passion for delivering exciting adventures to our customers.  It has been a privilege to be part of that team over the last 8 years and to be starting our next adventure together as an employee owned business.  Tris and Becs have transferred the ownership of Go Ape to those that truly care about its values and future.  Together we will continue to grow the business for the benefit of our employee co-owners, customers, environment, communities and partners.”