Shareholder disputes

Shareholder Dispute Solicitors

Please do call us to discuss your dispute. We scope cases and understand clients costs concerns.

Reasons to choose Gannons Solicitors to resolve your shareholder dispute

We are specialist solicitors for the resolution of shareholder disputes in private companies.  This gives you the benefit of experience and:

  • We are familiar in dealing with the competing interests of directors and shareholders. We deal with  shareholders who have fallen out and minority shareholders.
  • We have the knowledge to think of the best tactics and apply them.  Most of our cases are settled as we find a solution but in the appropriate case we have the skills to litigate.
  • We have a dedicated team and can respond quickly to problems.

Options to resolve a shareholder dispute

Unfortunately, not all businesses have detailed articles or a shareholders agreement setting out a clear process covering the transfer of shares where there is a dispute.  In some cases the paperwork has been left in a drawer and not signed.

Based on past experience we know that sensible resolution of a shareholder dispute is commercially best and the following can work.

Company buy back of shares and cancellation

The great advantage to a buyback is that the acquisition cost is paid for by the company. The shares are cancelled meaning that all remaining shareholders receive an uplift in the size of their shareholdings. One potential draw back is the company has to have sufficient surplus cash to pay for the shares. The tax treatment of the proceeds in the hands of the seller also differs for a company buy back.

Another problem often found in a shareholder dispute situation is that 75% of shareholders have to approve the company buys back the shares.

Splitting the business

Businesses can be split up and reorganised to enable shareholders to go their separate ways.  There are many choices all of which depend upon the specific facts.

Variation of rights

One shareholder may wish to relinquish management control but retain some income and capital rights. This will be particular to founders looking to step aside but retain some financial reward for their work. Shares can be varied so that certain rights are withdrawn.  There are often creative solutions.

Deferred consideration

Where cash flow is an issue the consideration payable for shares can be deferred.  But care is needed as:

  • Deferred consideration payments can if incorrectly structured affect a seller’s tax position particularly if the company is buyer;
  • The seller may look for security over the instalment payments which buyers are keen to avoid;
  • Interest rates may kick in if a default on instalment occurs; and
  • Earn outs are also common but a seller will need to think carefully where he is relinquishing full control and thus unable to control business direction.

Independent valuation of the shares under a shareholder dispute

Where the dispute is about the price payable for shares an independent expert can be the solution. The terms of appointment will need to be thought about as there are no fixed rules. The instructions should ideally cover matters such as:

  • The basis of valuation – will it be on a whole company basis or on the basis of the minority shareholding;
  • The value to be attributed to goodwill;
  • Who pays the costs – is it the company, the shareholders, or just one shareholder;
  • Is the valuation binding;
  • Are the parties allowed to make representations;
  • It is to be assumed the business will continue as a going concern.

Court action

We are equally as familiar with defence work as we are with bringing proceedings. There is a big emphasis on proportionality under the legal system. Our fees are competitive and instructing a boutique firm like us can point towards proportionality.

Potential claims available in a shareholder dispute

The types of claims we can deal with include:

  • Seeking a declaration from the court
  • Order for winding up
  • Minority shareholder unfair prejudice petition

Some companies have set out an agreed exit path in their articles or shareholders agreement. You need to review the documents to see what your position is. In some cases there will be detailed provisions relating to:

  • When the shares can be sold;
  • How the shares will be valued on transfer;
  • Who the shares can be transferred to; and
  • What restriction post-sale are placed on the ex-shareholder.

The timing for execution of documents can be important if the departing shareholder is hoping to claim Business Assets Disposal Relief (Entrepreneurs Relief) as one of the conditions is employment or directorship at the point of transfer of the shares.

Shareholder disputes solicitors in London

We are specialists in shareholder disputes and finding the best outcome where a dispute arises. With offices in Holborn we are an ideal choice, especially given our fee rates are considerably lower than the biggest law firms.

Alex Kleanthous

A highly experienced, tactically astute yet practical litigation lawyer, Alex has 30 years experience in resolving disputes.

Let us take it from here

Call us on 020 7438 1060 or complete the form and one of our team will be in touch.