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No discounts in New Jersey shareholder buyout case

New Jersey is one of several states that allow discounts for lack of control and marketability in fair value situations if it is proven that the discounts are fair and equitable, but, in a recent case, the trial court disallowed the discounts—and an appellate court agreed.

Cellular Telephone: An Interesting Decision for Valuation Practitioners

A recent Delaware decision in a breach of fiduciary duty case awarded more than triple the amount originally paid to partners who were squeezed out of their collective 1.881% interest in a partnership. Several aspects of this decision are of particular interest to valuation practitioners, especially those whose practice includes litigation services. The case is: In Re Cellular Tel. P’ship Litig.; 2022 Del. Ch. LEXIS 56 (Cellular).

Delaware Chancery Case on Shareholder Dissent Likely to Raise Eyebrows

A practitioner’s commentary on the Cellular case focuses on the tax-affecting issues in the case.

Appeals court affirms modified liquidation value in shareholder dispute

In a Michigan shareholder deadlock case, a special master recommended that a sale of shares from one shareholder to the other would yield more value than if the company were dissolved.

Sipko v. Koger, Inc.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey, in its second attempt to resolve this long-running shareholder dispute, a “thoroughly chewed apple”, and buyout, reversed the appellate court and remanded the case to the trial court for reinstatement of its valuation of the shareholder’s interest in two businesses and also agreed with the trial court that no marketability discount should be allowed to reduce the amount to be awarded to the plaintiff. The defendants chose not to call their own expert to provide an opinion of the fair value of the shareholder’s interests.

The Supreme Court of New Jersey Accepts Trial Court’s Value of Companies and Denies a Marketability Discount in a Contentious Buyout Dispute

The Supreme Court of New Jersey, in its second attempt to resolve this long-running shareholder dispute, a “thoroughly chewed apple”, and buyout, reversed the appellate court and remanded the case to the trial court for reinstatement of its valuation of the shareholder’s interest in two businesses and also agreed with the trial court that no marketability discount should be allowed to reduce the amount to be awarded to the plaintiff. The defendants chose not to call their own expert to provide an opinion of the fair value of the shareholder’s interests.

No deduction for tax in shareholder buyout

In a North Dakota partnership dissolution case, the defendants argued on appeal that the district court erred in its valuation.

New Jersey Appellate Court Affirms Valuation of Shopping Mall, Disallows Any Control or Marketability Discounts, Affirms Proper Dissociation by Plaintiffs

This case was a partnership dispute where the defendant partners tried to buy out the plaintiff partners. On appeal before the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ dissociation was wrongful and damages should be assessed, discounts for lack of control and marketability should be applied to the value, and the partnership value should be reduced to account for partnership outstanding debts and other amounts. The plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred by relying on the defendants’ expert’s report and not their expert’s report, refusing to increase the value by personal loans taken by the defendant partners, and failing to find that the partnership overpaid management and accounting fees. The appellate court affirmed the trial court with one exception, whether the partnership agreement disassociated properly. On that count, the appellate court determined that the disassociation was appropriate.

Robertson v. Hyde Park

This case was a partnership dispute where the defendant partners tried to buy out the plaintiff partners. On appeal before the New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division, the defendants argued that the plaintiffs’ dissociation was wrongful and damages should be assessed, discounts for lack of control and marketability should be applied to the value, and the partnership value should be reduced to account for partnership outstanding debts and other amounts. The plaintiffs argued that the trial court erred by relying on the defendants’ expert’s report and not their expert’s report, refusing to increase the value by personal loans taken by the defendant partners, and failing to find that the partnership overpaid management and accounting fees. The appellate court affirmed the trial court with one exception, whether the partnership agreement disassociated properly. On that count, the appellate court determined that the disassociation was appropriate.

Michigan Appeals Court Affirms Modified-Liquidation Value in a Shareholder Deadlock Litigation

In this shareholder deadlock litigation, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the solution to the deadlock was to order a buyout of the plaintiffs’ stock by the defendants as opposed to a dissolution of the company. The appellate court also affirmed the use of a modified-liquidation value as providing a value that maximized the value to the individual shareholders.

Pitsch v Pitsch Holding Co.

In this shareholder deadlock litigation, the appellate court affirmed the decision of the trial court that the solution to the deadlock was to order a buyout of the plaintiffs’ stock by the defendants as opposed to a dissolution of the company. The appellate court also affirmed the use of a modified-liquidation value as providing a value that maximized the value to the individual shareholders.

Delaware Chancery rejects partnership valuation in a freeze-out

In a coordinated action involving 13 partnerships that were involved in freeze-out transactions by AT&T of minority shareholders, the court found that AT&T breached its fiduciary duties and effectuated the freeze-out through an unfair process and by paying an unfair price.

Sproule v. Johnson

In this partnership dissolution case, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision to use an appraisal of the Canadian entity as of 2019 instead of a value from an earlier agreement in principal. The later date was within the purview of the district court’s flexibility. Further, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision not to reduce the value of a partnership asset of stock in a Canadian corporation for taxes.

North Dakota Supreme Court Affirms Valuation Date, Affirms No Deduction for Taxes in Determining Stock Value

In this partnership dissolution case, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision to use an appraisal of the Canadian entity as of 2019 instead of a value from an earlier agreement in principal. The later date was within the purview of the district court’s flexibility. Further, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision not to reduce the value of a partnership asset of stock in a Canadian corporation for taxes.

In Re Cellular Tel. P’ship Litig.

In this coordinated action involving 13 partnerships that were involved in freeze-out transactions by AT&T of minority shareholders, AT&T breached its fiduciary duties and effectuated the freeze-out through an unfair process and by paying an unfair price. The freeze-out was subject to the entire fairness standard of review. AT&T bore the burden of proving that the freeze-out was entirely fair to the minority partners. AT&T failed in that proof and thereby sought to capture future value for itself. AT&T did not employ any procedures that insured fairness to the minority partners. The lead partner of the valuation firm had a long-standing relationship with AT&T, and internal AT&T personnel influenced the outcome of the valuation. The court determined the fair value of the interest as a remedy to the situation.

Delaware Chancery Court Rejects Partnership Valuation in a Freeze-Out as Unfair to Minority Partners

In this coordinated action involving 13 partnerships that were involved in freeze-out transactions by AT&T of minority shareholders, AT&T breached its fiduciary duties and effectuated the freeze-out through an unfair process and by paying an unfair price. The freeze-out was subject to the entire fairness standard of review. AT&T bore the burden of proving that the freeze-out was entirely fair to the minority partners. AT&T failed in that proof and thereby sought to capture future value for itself. AT&T did not employ any procedures that insured fairness to the minority partners. The lead partner of the valuation firm had a long-standing relationship with AT&T, and internal AT&T personnel influenced the outcome of the valuation. The court determined the fair value of the interest as a remedy to the situation.

Bougie v. Garth-Niggeman

The case originated at trial court on issues of the buyout of a deceased member’s interest in an LLC restaurant. Among the issues was the use of the LLC’s recipes by the acquirer of the deceased’s interest in violation of the operating agreement. The two remaining LLC members claimed the use of the LLC’s recipes in other restaurants irreparably harmed them. However, the remaining members did not seek, nor did they prove, any damages resulting from the use of the recipes. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a permanent injunction against the use of the recipes.

Trial Court’s Denial of Permanent Injunctive Relief for Irreparable Harm Is Upheld

The case originated at trial court on issues of the buyout of a deceased member’s interest in an LLC restaurant. Among the issues was the use of the LLC’s recipes by the acquirer of the deceased’s interest in violation of the operating agreement. The two remaining LLC members claimed the use of the LLC’s recipes in other restaurants irreparably harmed them. However, the remaining members did not seek, nor did they prove, any damages resulting from the use of the recipes. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s denial of a permanent injunction against the use of the recipes.

Guttman v. Guttman

The one-third partner of a real estate partnership, Bruce Guttman (Bruce), sued for dissolution. The two majority partners initiated a statutory procedure to buy out Bruce. All three appraisals were very close to $38 million. Feeling the valuations to be too low, Bruce sought to withdraw his complaint without prejudice. The trial court, on a motion from the majority partners, vacated Bruce’s dismissal. The appellate court affirmed the trial court.

One-Third Partner Sued to Have Partnership Dissolved, Asked to Vacate His Dissolution Assertion

The one-third partner of a real estate partnership, Bruce Guttman (Bruce), sued for dissolution. The two majority partners initiated a statutory procedure to buy out Bruce. All three appraisals were very close to $38 million. Feeling the valuations to be too low, Bruce sought to withdraw his complaint without prejudice. The trial court, on a motion from the majority partners, vacated Bruce’s dismissal. The appellate court affirmed the trial court.

Collins v. Tabs Motors of Valley Stream Corp.

In this New York business divorce case, the court held that the shareholders agreement was enforceable, as well as the stipulated value of the buyout price as determined in Schedule B of the shareholders agreement. Claims by petitioners of breach of fiduciary duty and related claims, including a years-old certificate of value, were not sufficient to overcome the unambiguous terms of the buy-sell agreement.

In a New York Business Divorce, a Petition for Dissolution Triggers Buy-Sell Agreements

In this New York business divorce case, the court held that the shareholders agreement was enforceable, as well as the stipulated value of the buyout price as determined in Schedule B of the shareholders agreement. Claims by petitioners of breach of fiduciary duty and related claims, including a years-old certificate of value, were not sufficient to overcome the unambiguous terms of the buy-sell agreement.

BV News and Trends September 2021

A monthly roundup of key developments of interest to business valuation experts.

Cheng v. Coastal Lb Assocs.

This case concerned the purchase of minority interests in a California limited liability company under the Corporate Code concerning the purchase of these interests in lieu of a liquidation of the company. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order confirming the purchase of these interests at a discounted fair market value.

California Court of Appeal Allows a Discount for Lack of Control in the Buyout of 25% Interests in an LLC

This case concerned the purchase of minority interests in a California limited liability company under the Corporate Code concerning the purchase of these interests in lieu of a liquidation of the company. The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s order confirming the purchase of these interests at a discounted fair market value.

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