Corporate and M&A Insights

Businesses need to prepare for the short and long term challenges that await as COVID-19 continues to impact the economy.

Lindabury is collaborating with Spector & Ehrenworth, a well respected New Jersey bankruptcy and creditors’ rights law firm, to assist clients with challenges they may face, including customers and vendors unable to meet their financial commitments, as well as cash flow or liquidity concerns.

Below are some issues you may encounter and with which our team can assist. Please contact us with any questions you may have.

Eric Levine, co-chair of Lindabury’s Cybersecurity and Data Privacy practice is quoted in a recent issue of NJBIZ regarding the growing digital threat often disguised as a legitimate-looking email.  Eric says that when our firm receives an email in regards to a bank transaction, “We won’t cut a check against it until it clears our financial institution, and then we’ll wait up to another 10 days.   It can be an inconvenience for a client, but this way we know the money is good.”

To read the full NJBIZ article click here.

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Robert Anderson was quoted in a recent article published by ROI-NJ regarding the current merger market.

“What’s making deals successful right now is the fact that, when the acquisitions are made, it’s in the context of a very good economy,” he said. “Even if you don’t find that operations are ideal at the company you’ve acquired, the fact that the economy itself is so strong — that tends to pull companies along regardless.”

You may read the full article here.

In ROI-NJ’s recent article, Robert Anderson suggests the potential for the talk of trade wars to permeate other sectors of the economy, potentially adversely impacting other business segments.  Worst case, this could make for a stifling of the free-for-all in business buying and selling that’s going on currently.

To read the full article online click here.

Robert Anderson, chair of Lindabury’s Mergers and Acquisitions group was recently interviewed by ROI-NJ in regards to the recently increase in M&A activity.  Bob has indicated that the the last nine months have been his busiest of the past 30 years.

To read the full article online, click here.

Liquor licenses are state-issued licenses that enable your business to legally sell alcohol. The laws around liquor licenses vary by state and New Jersey has some of the most restrictive liquor license laws in the nation (along with being some of the most expensive). In New Jersey, the Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) regulates the sale of alcoholic beverages and the conduct of licensees through the issuance of licenses. There are three types of licenses: manufacturing, wholesale and retail.  The subject of this article is a “33 License” or a Plenary Retail Consumption license (i.e. the license you need for a restaurant or similar.)

New Jersey law grants individual municipalities substantial discretion in passing ordinances regulating the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages within their limits. The number of 33 Licenses available is determined by a municipality’s population, and may be further limited by the town’s governing body. As a result, the availability of alcohol and regulations governing it vary significantly from town to town. Retail licenses tend to be difficult to obtain. The market is in high demands and because of this 33 Licenses are subject to exorbitant prices if and when they become available. License holders (“licensees”) resell their license on the private market — subject to limitation. A license may only be used within the municipality that issued it originally. Moreover, any sale must be approved by the issuing authority. Here is how to get a liquor license broken down into four steps.

  1. Find the license, for sale on the private market. You will have to enter into a Purchase and Sale Agreement contingent upon successful application to the municipal ABC Board. You will also want to check to ensure the license is in good standing, has been properly renewed, etc. In order to do this you will want to run lien searches, request documentation of renewals, etc.

Good news is a brew for New Jersey craft beer advocates. In February 2018, the New Jersey Assembly’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee paved the way for the introduction of Bill A2196, which would remove a current licensing rule requiring breweries and distilleries to provide a tour of their facilities before serving alcoholic beverages to consumers. Currently, breweries holding a New Jersey Limited Brewery License are prohibited from selling their brews at the brewery, unless patrons first complete a tour of the premises. This requirement applies to every customer, regardless of whether it is their first or fifteenth visit to a particular brewery, and failure to issue a tour can result in a hefty fine. If passed, Bill A2196 would be the latest step in a number of recent legislative changes aimed at easing New Jersey’s complex and stringent liquor laws.

New Jersey craft beer production has exploded over the past four years. As of February 2018, the New Jersey Craft Beer Association has identified ninety-eight breweries and brew pubs in the State of New Jersey, as well as twenty-four “startup” breweries in the process of obtaining licensing or permits. The growth of craft breweries in the State is in no small part due to a trend in Trenton towards loosening the State’s strict liquor laws by steadily expanding the rights for breweries with Limited Brewery Licensees.

Prior to 2013, breweries were limited to selling their products to licensed retailers and wholesalers. If a brewery was interested in establishing a tasting room, it would be required to obtain a special permit—issued by a different regulatory agency—that limited service to 4 oz. samples. Then, in December 2013, a noticeable shift in policy took hold when the Limited Brewery License was amended to consolidate these laws and permit the consumption of full-sized beers on the premises. The amendment permitted breweries to sell their brews on site for consumption, but only if such beverages were offered in connection with a brewery or distillery tour.

Lindabury partner, Robert Anderson, shares his insight in NJBIZ’s recent article:  “The inside scoop on M&As: Plenty of big companies have learned the hard way how difficult mergers can be”

Sometimes, a planned M&A can get torpedoed because of decisions that were made long ago, notes Robert W. Anderson.  So a potential seller may wish to review its books and records long before putting up a “For Sale” sign.

One suggestion: do some housecleaning, and scour around for any loose ends. That’s because for a buyer, a “big part of an M&A involves due diligence; understanding what they’re buying and how the target company fits in with the acquirer’s business operations and goals,” says Anderson. “If they see a lot of issues, like unsigned contracts, or potential tax and other liabilities, they may back away from the deal.”

Corporate deadlock is often cited as a reason why the court should invoke its powers and order the sale of one shareholder’s stock in minority shareholder litigation. While deadlock is a legitimate reason to bring a lawsuit seeking the court’s intervention, it is not a magic bullet that will automatically lead to the court ordering a buyout of one or more shareholders.

Deadlock is defined under the New Jersey Business Corporations Act and can be found under one of two circumstances. Deadlock can be found to exist when “the shareholders are so divided that they have not been able, for two consecutive meetings, to elect successors to directors whose terms have expired or would have expired if successors had been elected and qualified.” N.J.S.A. 14(a):12-7(1). The second manner in which deadlock may exist is if “the directors or other persons having management authority are unable to effect action on one or more substantial matters respecting the management of the company’s business.” N.J.S.A. 14(A):12-7(1).

The first deadlock provision may seem like an easy one to satisfy in closely held companies since many small companies do not hold formal shareholder meetings as required under the statute. The owners of small closely held companies are so focused on running the business that they forget about the formal requirements. Instead, since the shareholders in such companies generally work together closely and see each other practically every day, they make management decisions informally as necessary to operate the business and without formal meetings or corporate resolutions.

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Because of the fiduciary duties owed by business owners to each other, whether they are shareholders in a closely held corporation, members in a limited company, or partners in a general or limited partnership, a business owner generally is prohibited from competing with the company. This general prohibition can be modified by an agreement among the owners, but in the absence of such an agreement the prohibition stands.

Failure to do so is referred to as the diversion of corporate opportunities. An owner of a closely held business has a duty to bring to the company any business opportunity that the company would normally expect to seek to pursue. The opportunity must be presented to the company and cannot be pursued individually unless the company decides not to pursue that opportunity.

As with the prohibition on competition, the requirement to present all opportunities to the company can be altered by contract. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 14A:3-1, a corporation can renounce its interest in, or expectancy of the opportunity to pursue, specific opportunities. One manner in which corporate opportunities can be relinquished is to insert the pertinent language in the Certificate of Incorporation. When starting a new business, if there is any thought that one or more owners might want the right to pursue competing opportunities, you want to include language in the Certificate of Incorporation, or a separate shareholder agreement, that specifies what competing businesses the shareholder may appropriate.

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