Kenneth J. Wanko

Managing Director

As Managing Director of SES ESOP Strategies, Ken advises companies, owners and other stakeholders on M&A and private capital raise transactions, with a particular focus on ESOP ownership transactions. To accomplish this, Ken brings a breadth of experience as a former board member, business leader, investor and advisor for a wide range of ESOP-owned businesses.

Prior to joining SES ESOP Strategies, Ken was CEO and Chairman of Alliance Holdings, Inc., an ESOP-owned holding company, where he delivered positive economic results, implemented a new corporate governance structure and drove growth through acquisitions. After being promoted to CEO and Chairman, Ken successfully led the efforts to protect ESOP participants and ensure the viability of Alliance by settling outstanding ERISA litigation against the company, and recovering substantial damages from multiple involved parties. He also held the roles of Chief Operating Officer and Director of Acquisitions at Alliance before becoming CEO and Chairman. In his role as Director of Acquisitions, Ken led the national deal sourcing and execution efforts, including management of the entire M&A process.

Before he joined Alliance in 2005, Ken was a founding member of the ESOP corporate finance group in the investment banking group of Houlihan Lokey, where he advised on some of the largest and most innovative employee buyouts in history.

Ken’s broad range of transactional, management and governance experience makes him uniquely qualified to evaluate the opportunities and challenges faced by companies and their owners when considering an ESOP.


  • Duke University, the Fuqua School of Business, MBA, 1998
  • The University of Michigan, B.S., Aerospace Engineering, 1992

Selected Speaking Engagements 

  • “ESOPs: Everything You Need to Know,” Exit Planning Institute Rocky Mountain Chapter Virtual Event, April 22, 2021
  • “ESOP as an Acquisition Vehicle,” NCEO Employee Ownership Conference, April 20, 2021

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