Bob Moore puts his name and bearded, bespectacled face on all the packages of flours and bread mixes he makes. But he knows that there are a lot of unseen people behind the $80 million worth of Bob's Red Mill products sold last year. So when he turned 81 in February, he decided to give them a gift: the company. "I didn't want it to be acquired by a competitor," says Moore, who still comes to the Milwaukee, Ore., factory daily. He says he's had offers, but worries that new owners might "take it to pieces and fire everyone. I couldn't let that happen."
Founded in 1974, Bob's Red Mill-and Bob himself-have gained a devoted staff of 209, who know him as a generous boss. But no one expected this. "I don't think it's really sunk in," says head miller David Geiter, 50, who started sweeping floors in 1981 and now may leave with about $230,000 at age 65. Moore's three sons (none of whom work for him) don't mind that they won't be inheriting the business. "He's taken care of us," says Bob Jr., 56, also a flour miller. "What he's done is great."
The new employee/owners agree. "You can feel it in the air: There's a lot of happy stories about what folks plan to do when they retire," says Matthew Cox, a marketing manager for the company. "Deep down, nobody's really surprised by this. This is just how Bob is."
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