Many companies give out bonuses around the holidays, but not many announce an additional $10 million in employee payouts on top of annual year-end prizes like St. John Properties did at a recent holiday party.
“I still haven’t absorbed it,” said Nikki Goode, the real estate firm’s director of taxation, in a company video. “I’m shocked, very thankful.”
Edward St. John, the founder and chairman of St. John Properties, wanted to celebrate the company’s recent accomplishment: developing 20 million square feet of office, retail, warehouse and other spaces across eight states. The company’s Maryland properties include the Baltimore Gateway on Koppers Street and the Business Center at Owings Mills.
The 81-year-old said he thought it would take nearly 40 years to reach his goal. Instead it only took 14.
To thank employees for their hard work, St. John said he wanted to give them a bonus. One million didn’t seem like enough and neither did five or eight million, he said in a company video. So, he landed on $10 million split between 198 employees.
The bonuses were allocated by years of service with the St. John Properties with each employee getting an average of $50,000 on top of the company’s regular year-end bonus.
“I wanted to celebrate it and make it meaningful for the people who did it,” St. John said. “I steer the boat but they are the ones that run the boat.”
Video from the announcement shows several employees with their hands over their mouth in shock, crying and embracing one another. Only five people knew about the bonus before the celebration, the company said.
Goode, who’s been with the company for 15 years, said she started as a receptionist, went to college throughout her career and worked her way up the ladder, making her time at the company “well worth it.” Others described the bonus as “life-changing” saying it will help with looming law school and college tuition payments for their kids.
Danielle Valenzia, an accounts payable specialist, said she has five kids, five grandchildren and a set of in-laws that she’s responsible for.
“What happened tonight was magical,” the 19-year company veteran said through tears in a video. “This is huge.”