Brands in the News

Why Chobani’s CEO Gave Away $500 Million

29 Apr , 2016  

On Tuesday, Hamdi Ulukaya–founder and CEO of Chobani, the Greek yogurt giant–gave his employees 10% of the company. Each worker received a packet with a share grant commensurate with their tenure with the company. The gift came directly from the CEO.

This is quite a gift. A private equity firm recently valued Chobani between $3 and $5 billion, so a 10% gift is worth $300 million to $500 million. At a $3 billion valuation, the average award was $150,000.

The gift was a brilliant move for three reasons.

Most important, the grant rewards employees. Chobani is currently a private company, but many people expect it to sell or go public in the coming years. This gift ensures the employees will benefit. It keeps them focused on the company’s success and motivated to continue its growth. As one employee said, “It’s the best thing because you’re getting a piece of this thing you helped build.”

The move also builds the Chobani brand. The announcement this week generated considerable publicity, including an article in the New York Times. Chobani already had a strong brand with positive associations; this move will build it further. While many firms seem to be primarily committed to the bottom line and the CEO’s salary, Chobani is rewarding the entire team. Bernie Sanders would approve.

Finally, the grant enhances Hamdi Ulukaya’s reputation. It guarantees that his personal brand doesn’t just represent remarkable business success. It demonstrates that Hamdi is also concerned about the team. As he explained, “I’ve built something I never thought would be such a success, but I cannot think of Chobani being built without all these people.”

Giving away $500 million of your own money seems like a curious move at first glance, but when you consider the impact on employees, the Chobani brand, and Hamdi’s personal reputation, I suspect it was an easy decision.


I’ve recently written about Homeaway’s new fees. This week the company announced new, lower annual subscription fee and notable product enhancements. You can watch a video about the changes here. Overall, the moves are very smart, but by bungling the execution, Homeway took a positive strategy and turned it into a customer relations fiasco.

Leave a Reply


Conversation Across the Site

  • Stephen Calkins { Stunning turn-around to think that the once-iconic CocaCola is now a brand in serious trouble. Hard-hitting commentary that seems on the mark. } – Trouble at Coca-Cola
  • Thom Disch { Wow the most recognizable brand in the world is in trouble. I can see that. The cultural problems that will present for management will probably... } – Trouble at Coca-Cola
  • Sarah Kemple { Perhaps Coke should consider adopting Charity:Water as one of their community partnerships } – Trouble at Coca-Cola
  • emitahill { Troy Cracker Barrel has internet. I have brunch there with a friend 2-4 times/year coming and going from Hamburg. The display of merchandise is hilarious.... } – Brand of the Month: Cracker Barrel
  • Rod Taylor { It helps that they have a relatively large and high margin "country merchandise" section in the waiting area and that they get 14K visitors on... } – Brand of the Month: Cracker Barrel
  • Stephen Calkins { You were kind not to protest. For an argument that customer service is a key part of iPhone success, see story in today's New York... } – The High Cost of Poor Service
  • Read more Comments »

Collaborate with Tim

Tim helps companies around the world build great brands. To schedule a program or event click here. To learn more about Tim’s books, click here.