Maria Reyes began working for Entertainment Partners (EP) in 1990, straight out of high school. In 2000, her high school sweetheart husband, Johnny, joined EP’s Facilities Department. Maria and Johnny bought a house in Los Angeles’s San Fernando Valley and had two children. For two and a half decades, Maria worked in various departments at EP—from commercial and production payroll, to adjustments and payroll administration.
Tragically, in September 2015, Maria lost a six-year battle with cancer. She had just celebrated 23 years of marriage to Johnny, and 25 years with EP.
Devastated, Johnny wondered how he would provide for the kids and make ends meet with only one income. The mortgage needed to be paid, and for many months the bills were rolling in. “Insurance covered a lot, but bills from the hospital and ambulance trips were coming out of the woodwork,” says Johnny. The proceeds from Maria’s 401(k) and life insurance alleviated some of the pressures, and his 22-yeard old son, Arnulfo, immediately began working in payroll at EP to help out.
The Power of Employee Ownership
In 2004, at the urging of CEO Mark Goldstein, EP became 100% employee owned, providing EP’s workforce with an ownership interest in the company. Consequently, at the time of her untimely passing, Maria’s fully vested shares yielded six figures. It wasn’t until after Johnny received the ESOP payout for his family, that he truly felt a sense of financial security, and hope. He put some of the funds into investments, and the rest aside for his children’s futures.
“EP has been like family, and Maria’s ESOP money has provided a security blanket,” says Johnny. “If we didn’t have it, we’d really be struggling.”
Arnulfo drops his sister, Ashley, off at school in the morning and Johnny leaves work in the afternoon to pick her up. He recognizes that she’ll need a car when she graduates. With only a year of high school to go, she has her sights set on becoming a nurse. She will be the first Reyes to go to college, and the ESOP money will pay for her education. Johnny regularly tells his daughter that there are no financial obstacles to her future, and that she won’t be in debt.
Arnulfo plans to take courses in music engineering soon, and Johnny has assured him his classes will be paid for as well.
“Throughout this whole process, my kids have continually made me emotionally stronger,” says Johnny. “They need to know that I will take care of them. It’s definitely what Maria would have wanted.”
Entertainment Partners is the global leader in entertainment payroll, residuals, tax incentives, finance and other integrated production management solutions. Additionally, EP’s Central Casting division handles payroll and casting for background actor, and has been a Hollywood icon since 1925. EP has been a 100% employee-owned company since 2004.