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One of Portland’s most well-known businesses is set to become completely employee-owned.

Bull Moose, a business known for music, books, movies, toys, and games, announced Tuesday morning that longtime owner Brett Wickard is selling the company to employees through an employee stock ownership plan. Wickard will remain as interim CEO and chair of the company board of directors during the transition.

Bull Moose logoWickard reportedly announced the sale during a companywide meeting, where he laid out three goals for the sale: to build a platform for employees to have more control and input into company operations, to create financial security for their future, and to provide more earning opportunities. 

“Maintaining local ownership will continue Bull Moose’s mission to connect, inspire, and entertain folks with our inexpensive, fun, collectible stuff,” Wickard said.

While the press release did not say when this meeting occurred, all Bull Moose locations were closed Monday night for the meeting.

Eligible employees will get stock ownership through a trust that will own 100 percent of the company after buying out Wickard.

Wickard founded Bull Moose in 1989 while a student at Bowdoin College. The company grew to have 11 stores in Maine and New Hampshire.

In 2007, a Bull Moose employee proposed Record Store Day, now an annual event that promotes independent music stores with special vinyl and CD releases, and often includes live artist performances. Record Store Day is now an international event and a part of the multi-billion-dollar resurgence in vinyl sales.

The announcement came just over a year after Bull Moose closed its Old Port store on Middle Street. An expiring lease and reduced foot traffic were cited as reasons for leaving downtown Portland, although the company expressed a goal to return to downtown in the future.

Bull Moose now has Maine stores in South Portland, Scarborough, Brunswick, Windham, Lewiston, Waterville, Bangor, and Sanford, and New Hampshire stores in Keene, Salem, and Portsmouth.

The Salem store abruptly closed last May when employees claimed they were fired for protesting the end of mask requirements. Wickard later apologized to the 20 workers who were fired, they returned and received back pay. Wickard at the time said the company would accelerate minimum wages to $15 per hour by June 2022.

Those workers later formed a union.