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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.

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 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.

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.

Pourmoradi v. Gabbai

This California appellate case reviewed the trial court’s decision that discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability were not appropriate in determining the value to be paid to the plaintiffs in this corporate dissolution case where the remaining 50% owners exercised their right to purchase the plaintiff’s 50% interest in the LLC.

California Appellate Court Remands for Application of Trial Court of Wrong Standard of Value Denying Discounts

This California appellate case reviewed the trial court’s decision that discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability were not appropriate in determining the value to be paid to the plaintiffs in this corporate dissolution case where the remaining 50% owners exercised their right to purchase the plaintiff’s 50% interest in the LLC.

Recap of recent BV cases of note

A number of recent cases have emerged that contain various valuation issues.

Van Vleet comments on use of SEAM in Ryan case

BVWire recently reported on the Ryan Trust v. Ryan case, a buyout dispute in which the Nebraska Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision to credit the valuation testimony of the expert for the late majority shareholder.

In buyout dispute, ‘downward bias’ sinks expert’s fair value determination

In a bitter buyout dispute involving a successful private family business and featuring two veteran appraisers, the Nebraska Supreme Court recently affirmed the district court’s decision to unreservedly credit the valuation testimony of the expert for the late majority shareholder.

In Buyout Dispute, Appeals Court Finds There Was No Basis for Jury to Set Aside Appraisers’ Contractually Mandated Value Determination

In buyout dispute, appeals court reverses trial court’s judgment, finding it was based on jury’s erroneous decision to set aside a contractually mandated appraisal and provide its own buyout price; there was no indication the appraisers misinterpreted the controlling partnership agreement; court remands.

Parrish v. Schroering

In buyout dispute, appeals court reverses trial court’s judgment, finding it was based on jury’s erroneous decision to set aside a contractually mandated appraisal and provide its own buyout price; there was no indication the appraisers misinterpreted the controlling partnership agreement; court remands ...

Ryan Trust v. Ryan

In family buyout dispute, state high court affirms trial court’s decision to adopt expert valuation testimony for selling majority shareholder, finding expert’s DCF inputs were reasonable as was selection of multiple of earnings in GPTC analysis; expert’s explanation for S corp premium was convincing.

State Supreme Court Affirms Adoption of Selling Shareholder’s Expert Value Findings

In family buyout dispute, state high court affirms trial court’s decision to adopt expert valuation testimony for selling majority shareholder, finding expert’s DCF inputs were reasonable as was selection of multiple of earnings in GPTC analysis; expert’s explanation for S corp premium was convincing.

LLC buyout at fair value poses ‘conundrum’ for the court

In allowing LLC members to buy out a departing member to avoid the dissolution of the company, a court had to determine the fair value of the departing member’s interest in a holding company.

2020 Top Business Valuation and Damages Cases

Complicated as the year 2020 was, it was not boring. The past year offered a wealth of lawsuits dealing with business valuation and economic damages issues. The list below shows our Top 10.

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