Headquartered in Erie, Michigan, Automatic Handling Systems, Inc. (“AHI”) has a 40-year proud and rich history as a family-owned business. AHI is an industry-leading designer, manufacturer, and supplier of automated systems primarily to the paper, tissue, and towel industries. But in 2020, AHI and its founding family (the Pienta family) found itself at the same crossroads that many family businesses eventually reach…how to transition ownership to the next generation. AHI had many common challenges for family businesses, including:

  • Founders who were ready to transition ownership and monetize their investment in AHI
  • Family members who were active in the business
  • Family members who were not active in the business
  • Non-family management responsible for leading and growing the company
  • A deep commitment to its 100+ employees, many of whom are like extended family
  • A strong desire to preserve AHI’s legacy and its commitment to the community in which it operates

After exploring a potential sale of the company to private equity investors, it became clear to the Pienta family that they were not willing to sell AHI to any investor who might jeopardize the company’s success, culture, or commitment to its employees or the community. So, after being introduced to the concept of an ESOP, GBQ worked with AHI and the Pienta family for approximately 9 months, beginning with an ESOP feasibility study and culminating with the successful design, structuring, and implementation of an ESOP. AHI is now 100% employee-owned and is enjoying the business, financial, and tax advantages that ESOPs offer. Most importantly, the ESOP was the perfect solution to achieve the family’s business transition objectives.

To learn more about this situation or how an ESOP may be a solution for your family-owned business, please contact GBQ.

Employee Owners of Automatic Handling, Inc.


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