In my experience with a not-publicly-traded company that decided to create an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), it was just a way for the owners to take cash out of the company without selling it on the market. Turns out they allotted shares worth 1/3 of the company to the ESOP, and had the coroporation borrow money in order to purchase those shares from the owners and give them to employees instead of contributing to 401Ks (I called it the "all eggs in one basket retirement plan"). The owners got cash and the employees got non-voting shares that dropped in value every year (especially 2009).
How is this taking money out of the company? Does it matter who owns the shares...employees vis-a-vis the general public?