Legal Eagle Column: It’s vital to protect your interests

Stewart Matthews, Partner and Head of Company Commercial at Neves Solicitors, explains why it is vital to protect your business interests with a Shareholder Agreement.

“I never dreamed I’d need a shareholders’ agreement. I thought Nick was invincible. Now it looks like I might lose everything I’ve worked for!”

This quote was from Jonathan, a couple of months after his friend and business partner’s shocking death.

How often have we heard words like Jonathan’s? Too often.

Partnerships can be terrific, until… they’re not so terrific, and they end in acrimony or tragedy.

Who can predict the future? Who can know for sure what pressures will bear on the partnership?

Pressures come, not only from within the business, but from outside.

Health, relationships, personal finance, jealousy, perceived laziness, ego and, of course, tragedy.

A legally-binding shareholders’ agreement is critical to the setting up, smooth running and amicable conclusion of business partnerships in a company.

Let’s get back to Jonathan.

Nick had been killed in a car accident. Jonathan had never got on with Nick’s wife.

Soon after the funeral, she started demanding money from the business.

Meanwhile, without Nick’s contacts, sales were faltering. Jonathan was having to spend large sums on headhunting a replacement, who would command a high salary.

Jonathan and Nick had always taken a dividend, never a salary.

All this pressure was now weighing on Jonathan’s shoulders, while his wife was demanding an equal dividend.

Surely this wasn’t fair. He’d offered to buy out Nick’s wife, but she was demanding far more than the business was now worth.

Much of this trouble and unpleasantness could have been avoided, if only they had put in place a legally binding shareholders’ agreement.

So, how do you set one up?

Simply visit your solicitor.

They will explain how the agreement works, what is expected of each business partner, what happens if a partner dies or decides to leave and how to deal with disputes.

Don’t forget – when you start up a company, you must set up a shareholders’ agreement.

You owe this to your partner, yourself and to those who depend on you.

This column was published in the December issue of Celebrate:MK lifestyle magazine. Read the full magazine above or by clicking on this link

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s