The number of employee stock ownership plans, which can provide liquidity for company owners, has more than tripled in the past 15 years. Currently, some 10,000 companies have ESOPs in place, according to the National Center for Employee Ownership. But the growth in new plans has slowed in recent years. According to Corey Rosen, executive director of the NCEO, "A lot of companies don't want to borrow -- or can't in the current market." Sellers, he adds, are less keen on selling when business valuations are low.

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New ESOPs:

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1986: 644 1988: 348 1990: 485
1987:
468 1989: 523 1991: 416

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Source: National Center for Employee Ownership, Oakland, Calif.