Who Owns Publix?

One of the many things I like about Florida is Publix Super Markets. No income tax or inheritance tax is very nice, but having a great place to buy groceries is also nice. In addition to great food selections and a clean store, you get the feeling all the employees really care about what they are doing and about their customers. How was that attitude achieved? Answer: the employees own the company.

Publix has 1,266 stores, with 818 of them in Florida. Other store locations are in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. The company has nine distribution centers and eleven manufacturing facilities where they make bakery, deli, and dairy items, and fresh foods. The food is great, but the employees are even greater. 

Publix was founded in 1930 in Winter Haven, FL by George Washington Jenkins Jr. He was born in Warm Springs, GA in 1907 and died in 1996. The company is the largest employee-owned company in the United States and is one of the 10 largest-volume supermarket chains in the country. Retail sales in 2019 reached $38.1 billion. Publix employs over 225,000 people. They get quarterly dividends just like a public company.

ESOP companies are not new. Benjamin Franklin pursued a form of employee ownership as early as 1733, when he sent the first of many journeyman employees to various cities to set up new print shops. Currently there are more than 4,000 employee owned companies, but Publix is the largest.

Randall Todd Jones, Chief Executive Officer at Publix Super Markets Inc., received compensation of $2.48 million in 2017. The average of U.S. CEO compensation was $14.5 million. How could a CEO of an employee owned company tell the deli worker making $12 an hour that the CEO was worth $14.5 million? I like the Publix model.