Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Integrity Marketing Group, a private equity-backed distributor of life and health insurance products, on Tuesday told its 750 employees that they'll receive an aggregate payout of $50 million as a "recognition of their success" in growing the business. They'll also all become eligible for company stock, subject to 12-month vesting and continued employment.

The big picture: Corporate America has talked a big game in 2019 about how it must do a better job of serving all stakeholders, not just investors.

  • This is an example of a company putting its money where its mouth is, serving as a welcome rebuke to skeptics like me.

Details: Private equity firm HGGC first invested in IMG in 2016 and has used it as a consolidation platform.

  • Just this year alone, the Dallas-based company has acquired 18 smaller insurance product distributors, all around the country. Earnings over that time have grown by around 800%. HGGC did a dividend recap, and the company recently announced a minority equity investment from Harvest Partners.
  • Proceeds from that deal will be used to fund the $50 million payout — which averages out to $66,000 per employee, although actual distributions are lumpier (the smallest check size is $7,500).

What they're saying: "We got to the $50 million number by retroactively calculating what people would have gotten had we begun giving equity when we started with HGGC," says IMG CEO Bryan Adams (no, not that Bryan Adams).

  • "Equitizing employees is never a bad idea. ... I think of it as being more part of old-school private equity, which I think is coming back," says HGGC partner Steve Young (yes, that Steve Young).

The bottom line: I don't know if Young is right or if IMG and some recent KKR deals will remain exceptions to the prevailing rule. But I want him to be.

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