When starting a business, co-owners envision the best—working together productively and profitably. But it is all too common for business partners to encounter a serious impasse over how to operate the business. When partners are unable to work through a dispute, it may be time for one partner to exit the company via a buyout of their interest. It is not uncommon for this scenario to arise in conjunction with claims that the majority shareholder or shareholders are oppressing the minority shareholder or shareholders.
For Illinois corporations, the Illinois Business Corporation Act of 1983 (BCA) permits shareholders to pursue legal action against each other based on allegations of fraud, illegal activity, corporate waste or other disruptive conduct. The BCA provides for 12 categories of relief that a court may order as an alternative to dissolving the business. Minority shareholders frequently opt to pursue the remedy of a buyout, in which the exiting shareholder’s interest is purchased by the remaining shareholders for “fair value.” Similarly for Illinois LLCs, the Illinois Limited Liability Company Act provides that a court may order the entity or the remaining members to purchase the interest of the outgoing member.
The BCA defines “fair value” as the value of the shares “taking into account any impact on the value of the shares resulting from the actions giving rise to a petition under this Section.” The statute goes on the explain that “‘fair value,’ with respect to a petitioning shareholder’s shares, means the proportionate interest of the shareholder in the corporation, without any discount for minority status or, absent extraordinary circumstances, lack of marketability.” For many companies, this provides a much more favorable valuation to a minority shareholder than selling shares for fair market value or any other metric of value normally employed when selling an interest in a small business. This is particularly true for closed (or closely held) corporations where a market for the minority’s shares might not otherwise exist since the statutory valuation does not generally speaking allow for a discount for the lack of marketability of the minority’s shares. Continue reading ›