Roger Dolese, former president and son of a co-founder of the company, finalized the charitable partnership in 2001, a year before his death.
Helm said Dolese's vision was to keep the company privately owned, to avoid jobs being moved out of Oklahoma, and to avoid a large estate tax bill.
“He felt like if the company sold, it could lose its values of honesty and integrity, and being fair with employees and customers,” Helm said.
Dolese employs about 1,100, nearly all in Oklahoma.
Since an employee profit-sharing plan was established in 2003, the company annually has set aside an amount equal to 20 percent of employees' salaries, said Bill Schlittler, Dolese's chief financial officer.
When Dolese finalized his succession plan, Schlittler worked for its outside accounting firm that helped develop it.
“Dolese likes to keep its affairs private, so we kept a veil of secrecy over the company's identity until we knew our partners understood the concept and were interested,” he said. “I'm not aware of another private company our size that has done this.”
Schlittler said the Internal Revenue Service, in its audit of the Dolese estate, initially rejected the plan, and wanted to include the value of the company in his estate.
“It's like a very long-term annuity,” he said. And, if all goes as planned, Dolese, in a century or so, will be 100 percent employee-owned, he said.
The company's current employees couldn't be more pleased.
“I'm proud to be a part of something that will go on forever,” said Kay Martin, an executive secretary who's worked at Dolese 29 years and attended OU.