Jan. 4—SALEM, N.H. — Businessman Brett Wickard announced Tuesday that he's selling his first company, Bull Moose Music, founded 33 years ago when he was a student at Bowdoin College.
The music and entertainment retailer will be sold to its employees through an employee stock ownership plan, according to Wickard. He will remain the interim CEO and chair of the board of directors during the transition.
Wickard explained how employees at Bull Moose's 11 locations in Maine and New Hampshire will be granted stock ownership, namely those who worked 1,000 hours or more the year prior and are at least 18 years old.
He said there's "more detail" included in the official business filings, but "an extremely high percentage of Bull Moose employees will be included."
Wickard and his company made headlines mid-2021 after the entire staff at the Salem, New Hampshire, Bull Moose store was fired with a mass email from longtime CFO Chris Brown.
Several fired employees told The Eagle-Tribune tensions were already high after an announcement that the company's mask mandate would be lifted the following week, despite workers' concerns.
According to the company's Facebook page, the decision had "absolutely nothing to do with masks or face coverings for employees or customers."
The entire staff was rehired three weeks later, and Wickard issued a public apology stating in part, "We strayed from our values and have to set things right."
It was announced in September that workers unionized, joining the 12,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445.
Wickard said this week, "Salem is seeing a positive way forward. We've been in business for over three decades and over the years I've definitely, and we've definitely, made mistakes. It's really important to own it, move forward, and make sure it doesn't happen again."
Plans for the sale were unrelated, he said, noting that they began in January 2020, but were temporarily put on hold because of the pandemic.
"I'm optimistic about the future," says Mick Pratt, an 11-year veteran of Bull Moose. "It seems like a really big first step toward making a better Bull Moose for the people who helped build it."
Employee owners will be represented by a committee, to which the board of directors will report.
"Many of the big moves that transformed Bull Moose happened when Brett let other people help lead," Bull Moose CFO Chris Brown said. "Same-store sales have returned to pre-pandemic levels and our profit margin has increased. Bull Moose is on an upswing so we couldn't ask for a better time for Brett to do this. His generosity amazes me."
Wickard will continue running FieldStack, a Portland-based retail management software company that he founded in 2014.