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Clearleft Ltd

Web Design & Development, Consultancy, IT Training, User Experience

Clearleft Transfers 75% Ownership To Employees

In an era when an increasing number of independent design studios are being sold to global management consultancies, the founders of Clearleft have ensured their company's continued independence by transferring 75% of it into employee ownership.

The decision, made by Andy Budd and Richard Rutter, who—with Jeremy Keith—set up Clearleft in 2005, will see the majority of company shares transferred into a trust, which will then hold those shares on behalf of the workforce.

Budd and Rutter explained that they will continue in their roles as Chief Executive and Managing Director, pushing the company forward, but the time seemed right to secure Clearleft’s legacy and culture and hand over ultimate control to the employees.

We’ve spent a third of our lives building up this company. It’s far more than just a business to us, it’s a lifestyle and a statement. Our purpose of making organisations and people’s lives better by furthering the practice of design still stands as strongly as it ever has done,“ said Rutter. “We’ve always said that the thing we’re most proud of at Clearleft is the culture and the people who make it. The last thing we want to do is lose all that by selling to a company that doesn’t share our values. The future of Clearleft should be in the hands of our people.

Clearleft employs around 25 full-time staff in its base in Brighton, UK in programs of work with clients including Channel 4, Virgin Holidays and JPMorganChase. Clearleft’s employees will buy the majority share from the two founders, not from their own money, but from the company’s future profits over the next four or five years. The employees have elected a board of employee trustees who will oversee the company work, and who have ultimate control over the business. 

We wanted to make sure all our employees are fully engaged in employee ownership as well. When they’ve paid off the loan, the employees can decide to distribute all the profits as they see fit: amongst themselves, invest it in the future, give it to charity, or whatever they decide. Autonomy is one of our core values, so this feels like a very Clearleft thing to do.

Andy Budd.


The founders revealed their plans earlier in the year and the sale process recently completed.