What To Do If An Owner of A Business wants to Transfer its Interests

\"\"New Yorker\’s are a mobile bunch. Especially New York business owners. Business open and close every day.  It is risky to believe that your co-owners will still be with you five years down the line. It is likely that there will come a time when of your co-owners will want to sell his shares or interests in the company to someone else.  One of the most common ways that a small business can get disrupted is when an owner desires to sell or transfer his interests in a company. So, what should you do?  You should create in advance a method for the owners to review and block any that is not in the best interests of the company.  Here are some things you should think about:

  1. Right of First Refusal. This is the most common provision in a buy-sell agreement. The owner who wishes to sell his interests first offers it to his co-owners before anyone else.
  2. Decide the Price of the Ownership Interests in Advance. Often the price will be set at the price a proposed outside buyer has bid.  I do not recommend this option because a fraudulent offer is possible. Another method is to set a pre-determined price at the time a buy-sell agreement is drafted.  Another option is to set a high down payment price which would show good faith.
  3. Make clear the effect of any sale on Minority Owners. Often a right of first refusal provision may freeze out a minority owner from selling his interests.  As a result, it may be important to include a \”Right to a Forced Sale\” clause.
  4. Decide who can buy the interest. Should the company have the right to purchase shares or the individual owners?
  5. Should an owner be able to give away his interest? Often owners wish to grant their interests in a company to a trust for estate planning reasons. This could be problematic because technically the trust would own the shares of the business. Often these issues are addressed when drafting a buy sell agreement.
  6. No Transfer Restrictions. Refusing to transfer any ownership interest is another possibility. This can limited in a few different ways, such a no transfers to certain persons and no transfers without written consent of the other owners.

You should decide in advance what to do if an owner of a business wants to transfer its interests through a buy sell agreement to avoid unnecessary problems and potential litigation.

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