Wunnerful, Wunnerful! The Lawrence Welk ESOP  - CLEO Skip to main content


In 1964, the famous television bandleader Lawrence Welk went for a drive in the country north of San Diego, Calif. planning to invest in a grove of orange trees. Instead he bought a motel and a nine-hole golf course. When he staged his TV show there, it gained instant celebrity as a tourist hotspot, eventually growing to include a theatre, more golf and vacation homes.

In the years since then, the Welk legacy has grown into an international hospitality business, featuring four-star quality resorts in the original San Diego location as well as Palm Springs, Tahoe Northstar, Branson, Mo., and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, with plans under way for future resorts to be built in Breckenridge, Colo., and Kauai, Hawaii.

One of the keys to their business success has been their philosophy of treating their employees like family. It was only natural, then, that the Welk family would respond with enthusiasm when they learned that they could address some pressing issues of shareholder liquidity through an arrangement that would allow family owners to sell stock to a retirement plan for the company’s employees – an arrangement known as an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP).

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