Tom Olive of Crystal Flash

Crystal Flash Recognized By MichBusiness For Its ESOP

Second Award for the Energy Distributor’s Succession Plan

Crystal Flash has been recognized as a Best of MichBusiness Succession Success for establishing an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, that ensures the long-term future of the company.

The Michigan-based energy distributor will be among the companies honored by MichBusiness during its awards gala this evening at the MGM Grand Hotel in Detroit. Dozens of Michigan businesses will be recognized in 15 categories for their excellence in education, communication, community leadership, human resources and other initiatives.

Crystal Flash was honored with a Succession Success award, which recognized “family-owned and -operated businesses that have successfully transitioned leadership and ownership from one generation to the next.”

This is the second time that Crystal Flash has been honored for establishing its ESOP. Earlier this fall, the company was recognized by MiBiz as Deal of the Year in the mid-sized transaction category during its annual M&A Deals and Dealmakers of the Year awards.

“Crystal Flash is honored to be recognized by MichBusiness for our Succession Success,” said President and CEO Tom Olive. “Establishing an ESOP allowed our founding family, the Fehsenfelds, to reward employees who have contributed to the growth of the company by making them owners.

“We are deeply appreciative of the thoughtful transition process that the Fehsenfelds established that equips our team with the tools and resources to continue to grow and expand.”

ESOPs are a popular method of business ownership transition.  ESOPs are qualified retirement plans that invest primarily in the stock of the sponsoring employer.  Once employees are eligible, they annually receive shares of stock that can be “cashed out” upon retirement.

In April 2016, Crystal Flash established the ESOP and announced that its 250 employees will become beneficial owners of the company. Crystal Flash, which is one of the largest privately held energy distributors in Michigan, has 14 locations across the state.

The move came as members of the Fehsenfeld family decided to transition their interest in the company after more than 80 years and three generations of leadership. Establishing an ESOP was part of the company’s evolution that included the hiring Olive in 2015, when Chairman Tom Fehsenfeld retired from executive leadership. The process also included strengthening the company’s board by adding three outside directors.

John E. Fehsenfeld founded Crystal Flash in Indianapolis in 1932 with one truck and a rented fuel storage facility. His son, Frank, moved operations to Grand Rapids soon afterwards. The business moved from gas stations to the home heating business in the 1940s.

Crystal Flash entered the propane business in the 1980s and expanded into commercial fleet fueling. The company exited the gasoline retail business in 2002 and focused on energy distribution; it subsequently purchased eight fuel companies as part of a planned growth strategy.

Crystal Flash now focuses on the delivery of propane, diesel and other fuels to power home, fleet, farm or business.