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Winnebago Industries Inc. has made the descendants of company founder John K. Hanson very rich and it also has put many residents of its hometown, Forest City, Iowa, at least in the upper middle class, according to the Des Moines (Iowa) Register.
Motorhome manufacturer Winnebago is a public company that has its stock traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and the company employees and other Forest City residents who have held on to Winnebago stock through the company’s and the stock market’s ups and downs over the years now have a nice nest egg, according to stock brokers interviewed by the Register.
For example, longtime Winnebago employee Harlan Rodberg is a Winnebago shareholder who originally bought his stock for $2 or $3 a share, and the company’s stock now trades around $70 a share.
“It’s a good investment,” said Bob Rollefson, manager of the Okoboji Financial Services office in Forest City, population 4,500. “I’ve got some locked away for retirement, too, in an annuity.”
Like Rodberg, there are others around town and in the factory who now have investments worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, Rollefson said.
“I know at least a half dozen,” Rodberg added, although he did not know of any who had become millionaires.
The heirs to the John K. Hanson fortune certainly have become millionaires, particularly since his widow, Luise, died late last year at age 90.
Hanson died in 1996.
According to Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) records, the Hansons owned 11.3 million shares of Winnebago stock, or 45% of the company, as of late 1994.
But after Luise Hanson died ln October, the family’s investment company, Hanson Capital Partners, sold $64 million worth of Winnebago stock back to the company, an amount that represented a 15% discount when compared with Winnebago’s stock market price at the time.
And Hanson Capital announced it would sell more Winnebago stock from time to time on the open market, lowering its ownership stake in Winnebago from the current 13%, or 2.26 million shares, to 6%, or 1.01 million shares, if everything goes according to plan.
That means, the vast majority of Winnebago’s stockholders could soon be people and investment firms not connected with the company.
Currently, the group of 17 people who are members of the Winnebago Board of Directors and/or senior-level managers own only 3% of the company’s stock. Winnebago Chairman, President and CEO Bruce Hertzke owns about 1%.