who-owns-publix

Who Owns Publix? The History of Publix In A Nutshell

Publix is an American supermarket chain that was founded in 1930 by George W. Jenkins. The founder named his new company after a cinema chain named Publix Theatres Corporation that was in the process of shutting down. The first Publix supermarket opened in Winter Haven, Florida, with another following suit in 1935. Despite the Great Depression, Jenkins’s stores were financially successful. One particular Publix store also had the distinction of being the first to be fully air-conditioned, while others pioneered the use of so-called “electric-eye” automatic doors which were considered revolutionary in the 1940s. The chain is one of only a few to operate more than 1,000 stores in the United States and employs approximately 227,000 people across the southeast of the country. Publix also has a rather unique ownership structure.

Employee ownership

Publix is now the largest employee-owned grocery store chain in the United States, with employees owning about 80% of the company.

This arrangement harks back to the founding days of the company when Jenkins established an employee ownership and profit-sharing scheme.

Such was his reverence that before his death in 1996, employees affectionally referred to him as “Mr. George”.

While shares in the company do exist, they are only available for purchase by employees, board members, and individuals in the Jenkins family.

Publix is a private company and does not disclose how much its employees hold.

However, financial magazine Barron’s estimates that the average employee holds $150,000 in stock and that some stalwarts may have seven-figure holdings.

Publix employees tend to be paid less than their counterparts at Walmart or Costco, but the company has a strong corporate culture because most are happy to work toward the success of the company and be compensated in shares and quarterly dividends. 

To that end, the company sets the share price each quarter and requires employees to sell back issued shares if they want to cash out.

Jenkins family ownership

The remaining 20% or so is owned by the Jenkins family which is worth around $8.8 billion.

Several members of the Jenkins family, including Walter, daughter Carol, and son Howard become billionaires in the process.

Current CEO Todd Jones became the first member outside the Jenkins family to hold the position.

In a similar vein to Publix employees, Jones is paid a salary that is below his industry peers, earning a relatively modest $3.6 million in 2020 when compared to Kroger boss Rodney McMullen’s $22.4 million.

Key takeaways:

  • Publix is an American supermarket chain that was founded in 1930 by George W. Jenkins. The company has a rather unique ownership structure where employees are the majority shareholders.
  • Publix is now the largest employee-owned grocery store chain in the United States, with employees owning about 80% of the company. Publix is a private company that sets a share price and pays dividends to employees every quarter. Exact figures are not disclosed, but some long-term employees are likely to be millionaires on paper.
  • The Jenkins Family owns the remaining 20% of the company, with many occupying senior management roles at one time or another. Like his employees, CEO Todd Jones earns a salary that might be considered meager by his peers but the company is no doubt better off as a result.

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