AAR has become staff-owned, with an employee ownership trust taking the majority share in the business, which has been valued at about £5m.
The ownership change aims to motivate staff to strengthen business performance, encourage entrepreneurialism and innovation, and "pass on the company to the next generation of business leaders".
An EOT is an indirect form of employee ownership that sees a trust hold a controlling stake of at least 51% of a company on behalf of employees. EOTs were brought in by the government in 2014 to encourage staff ownership as a business model. As well as receiving tax incentives for the business, staff can receive up to £3,600 as an annual bonus tax free.
AAR was founded in 1975 by Lyndy Payne as the world's first pitch consultancy and was sold to executive chair Kerry Glazer, managing director Paul Phillips and managing partner Martin Jones in 1998.
The three owners, and a minor long-term shareholder, have now sold a majority portion of their shares, while three staff who were employee option scheme holders have exercised their options and become minor shareholders.
The EOT now has a controlling share, with Glazer, Phillips and Jones each retaining a minority stake. Two independent trustees have joined the new AAR board and Glazer is director and chair of the trust.
Glazer said: "Establishing an EOT allows AAR to retain its independence and, therefore, its impartiality, integrity, company values and consistency in the way it operates as a business.
"It makes it easy for the existing owners to bring in a new generation of AAR leadership – heralded by our new chief executive officer, Victoria Fox – to incentivise and, over time, transition the business.
"What we have done is very much in keeping with the way in which AAR has always managed itself and it has allowed Paul, Martin and I to ensure succession and legacy of the business and a brand that we’ve worked hard to build."
Fox, who started as chief executive in May, added: "Trust is critical in this industry and, in establishing an EOT, AAR is actively demonstrating its integrity as an organisation. True leadership is about recognising when you need to bring in new thinkers with fresh ideas to innovate and take your business forward."