Shareholder / Partner Disputes

Shareholder / Partner Disputes

“Clarke Willmott LLP has a well-respected team with ‘vast experience in negotiating complex issues’, and its knowledge and grasp of legal issues is ‘second to none’”
Legal 500 2016

The relationship between business owners is like a marriage. Trust, communication and respect are all necessary to ensure an effective working relationship and a profitable business. However a disagreement often arises when one or more of these essential factors are lost, which can lead to an inherent breakdown in communication, which in some cases is irreparable. A dispute between business owners can therefore be just as personal and as acrimonious as any divorce because it involves the breakdown of a relationship. Legal advice should therefore be sought at the earliest opportunity. Independent mediation may help. However ultimately, effective advice and representation may be required.

We have the know-how and the understanding to assist you. We can help you to assess whether the issues can be fixed by finding a solution or whether the relationship should be brought to an end. However in any ownership dispute, the business and the individual owners can suffer. We therefore work with our clients to find a quick and amicable resolution. However in some situations, an owner may have no option but to fight. We will therefore work closely with our clients to find a commercial resolution through the court process.

Our expertise falls into two main areas (i) shareholder disputes and (ii) partnership disputes.

Shareholder Disputes

Shareholder disputes are a recurrent feature of corporate life and often occur when a minority shareholder believes that a majority shareholder is not acting in the best interests of the company.

Shareholders have a number of statutory and contractual rights. We will therefore always look to see if the dispute can be resolved by asserting one of those rights and we will always consider those rights to determine whether there has been a breach by the majority and/or the minority. We will then seek to resolve the dispute depending on the facts.

However minority shareholder have other rights against the majority and there are various claims that a minority shareholder may be able to pursue to include a derivative action; a just and equitable winding up and/or an unfair prejudice petition. Our team can assist in respect of any of these issues and we regularly advise both minority and majority shareholders. Please see our expertise page for further details.

Partnership Disputes

“It is rare to find a business partner who is selfless. If you are lucky it happens once in a lifetime”- Michael Eisner

There are an increasing number of disputes amongst partners and these often occur when a partnership is looking to recruit, downsize, retire an older partner, shift its business focus, make changes, expel a partner for poor conduct, poor performance and so on.

These are all sensitive issues that need careful handling. We advise both remaining and departing partners in professional partnerships to include general medical practitioners, accountants, solicitors and architects. We advise in respect of expulsion, breach of fiduciary duty, winding up, dissolution and actions for accounts.