Archive for the ‘Limited Liability Companies’ Category


Thursday, January 30th, 2014


As an attorney who has assisted clients with the sale of their businesses or the purchase of new businesses, I have observed that the process of selling a business can go more smoothly and can result in more money for the seller if the seller plans for the sale or otherwise considers certain legal issues in advance. I have set forth several areas of pre-sale legal planning that a seller should investigate well in advance of any sale to help maximize the value received.

Advisors: Prior to selling your business, visit with your accountant and attorney to discuss the specifics of your business and a general timeline and deal structure that you can expect. You may also consider visiting with a business valuation advisor, a business broker and an estate planning attorney.

Type of Entity: The type of entity, whether it is a corporation, sole proprietorship, limited liability company, or partnership and the applicable tax-election, whether it be subchapter C, subchapter S or other pass-through classification, will have a great impact on the overall deal structure. You should meet with your advisors to understand the implications of these issues. Does your structure maximize value? Can anything be done to maximize value by planning ahead?

Deal Process: In the typical sale transaction, the following documents and steps are often utilized: (1) The potential buyer often enters into a Nondisclosure Agreement pursuant to which the buyer agrees to keep the information confidential, to return the information when finished and to only utilize the information for the evaluation of the business and the due diligence process; (2) The buyer and seller often enter into a non-binding Letter of Intent pursuant to which the basic deal terms are agreed to and which restricts the seller from talking to other potential buyers during the continuing sale process; (3) The parties negotiate an acquisition agreement such as an Asset Purchase Agreement, which is the critical document containing the terms of the actual transaction; and (4) Ancillary documents such as a Non-Compete Agreement, Promissory Note, Security Agreement, Escrow Agreement and Consulting Agreement may be utilized as well. Review the process with your advisors.

Deal Structure: Typically a business is sold either through the sale of the stock in the company or through the sale of its assets. Often, the buyer prefers an asset purchase transaction to attempt to isolate and leave the unwanted liabilities with the seller and to receive a step-up in the basis of the assets purchased. In an asset purchase, the specific assets that are purchased are identified along with the specific liabilities to be assumed. Alternatively, in a stock sale, unless otherwise stated, the purchaser generally receives everything the company owns including its assets and liabilities. Discuss the types of deal structures with your advisors. What structure would be best to maximize your value? What structure would attract more buyers and what structure is the most realistic to expect?

Review Documents: Meet with your professional advisors and review sample documents that would govern a potential transaction. For example, in an asset purchase agreement, the seller will be expected to make certain representations to the buyer relating to the business such as litigation, taxes, compliance with law, financial statements and ownership of assets. Do your answers maximize value or communicate complexity, disorganization, and problems and issues that lower value? Discuss what you would need to disclose. In addition, are you willing to be subject to restrictive covenants, including a non-compete, non-piracy or non-solicitation agreements? These agreements add or preserve value for a potential buyer and are often expected.

Taxes: Discuss with your attorney or accountant the tax consequences of the transaction so that you can maximize what you receive. Once again, the type of entity and the applicable tax election will both impact the deal structure, deal flexibility, taxes due upon sale and how much the seller receives and keeps. Additional tax issues, among others, include the amounts allocated to the assets being purchased and the estate taxes that apply with respect to the seller’s plans for his or her family.

Company Cleanup: To attract and keep potential buyers interested, review your corporate records and minute book to make sure that they are complete and accurate. Sloppy or incomplete records communicate the wrong message. Consider separating your personal items, if any, from the company. Are there personal assets that have become intertwined with the business? Perhaps the company owns a house or boat or artwork that needs to be segregated from what will be sold or otherwise impacts the operational performance of the company. Should land be separated from the business and held in a separate entity which leases the property back to the company? Conduct a lien search on yourself and the company to see what is on file. Perhaps a financing statement relating to an old paid-off loan hasn’t been terminated. Have your advisors review your records with you.

Contracts: Inventory all of your material relationships and contracts. As part of the due diligence process that the buyer will require, the buyer will expect lists and copies of these documents. Review your business to see if you can formalize personal relationships that can be valuable to the buyer. Do you have written contracts with your customers or are they based on course of dealing and history? Can these important contracts be assigned to a buyer or do you need the consent of a third party? Consider the use of employment contracts with non-compete clauses and restrictive covenants for key employees if they are appropriate and add value. Analyze your customer base and supply chain and whether the relationships are reflected in contracts that can be assumed by a buyer.

Estate Planning: Is your estate planning in order and what are the implications of the transaction on your estate planning? Can your estate planning goals be achieved with pre-sale estate planning efforts?

 Business Valuation: What are your expectations regarding how much you should receive in a sale? Discuss with your accountant and attorney the value of seeking a rough or more specific business valuation. A business may be valued a number of ways including the value of the assets, use of benchmarks and multiples related to sales or revenue and the use of earnings multiples. Your advisors may also have worked with business brokers that have successfully assisted their clients in sale or purchase transactions.

Shareholder/Owner Issues: How many owners are there? Are all of the owners or a majority in agreement that the sale should occur? Are their shareholder agreements that are in place? State law may provide that the sale of substantially all of the assets will trigger appraisal or dissenter’s rights for the shareholders of the company. Your attorney should be consulted regarding these issues.

Approval Process: What approvals are necessary to sell your business? In the case of a typical corporation, the applicable state statutes along with the Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws set forth the framework for approval. Generally, in the context of the sale of a business, a sale of assets would be characterized by state law as a sale of “all, or substantially all” of the assets “other than in the usual and regular course of business” and approval must be obtained from the Board of Directors and Shareholders of a selling company. Also, have you entered into agreements or loans or mortgages that are implicated by a sale, restrict a sale or require a third party to approve the sale? Speak with your attorney regarding the approval process necessary to complete the sale transaction.

Conclusion: As with most things, a little planning can help a seller maximize the value received and otherwise make easier what is often a difficult experience. If selling your business is a possibility or a goal, then planning ahead is a wise investment. When forming an entity and starting a business, it is not unwise to even ask at that time what your exit strategy will be. Often it is the sale of the business. While the aforementioned list is not exhaustive, consideration of these issues ahead of time will help you when it comes time to sell.

For help concerning the sale or purchase of a business, contact John at (828) 254-8800, or for more information, please visit


John Fleming is a general practitioner in corporate law with an exceptional knowledge of Health Care Law.  John has been named to the 2014 Business North Carolina magazine’s Legal Elite list of the top lawyers in North Carolina and was named in the in Corporate Counsel category. The Legal Elite recognizes the top lawyers in the state in specific business-related practice areas as voted by their peers, and only about 3% of the state’s attorneys are awarded the distinction.





Friday, November 22nd, 2013

By:  Rick Jackson

On January 1, 2014, Chapter 57D of the North Carolina General Statutes goes into effect (“New LLC Statute”) and Chapter 57C is repealed (“Old LLC Statute”).  The New LLC Statute will apply to all LLC’s, even those formed before January 1, 2014.

So is it time to make an appointment with your attorney to review your operating agreement?  Perhaps, but not for the reasons you may think. 

As three of the most significant changes to the Old LLC Statute, the New LLC Statute (1) introduces and emphasizes the concept of “company officials” as an alternative to managers, (2) introduces and emphasizes the concept of “economic interest owner” as distinguished from members, and (3) provides that the New LLC Statute (other than seven enumerated exceptions) may be “supplemented, varied, disclaimed, or nullified” by the operating agreement.

1.  New Definition:  “Company Officials”

The New LLC Statute provides that “company officials”, such as directors and officers, can be used by LLCs as the decision makers for the LLC in lieu of managers.  But the use of directors and officers in an LLC is not new to the New LLC Statute.  The New LLC Statute simply places greater emphasis than the Old LLC Statute on its use as a possible alternative to managers.

The ability to use directors and officers in lieu of managers underscores just how flexible the governance of LLCs can be.  In determining the appropriate decision-making structure of your LLC, it is important to consider whether the use of directors and officers in lieu of managers is, in practice, more efficient (or burdensome) in carrying out your day-to-day management.  Even more important is determining the decision-making authority of the members of your LLC in relation to that of its managers (if manager-managed) or directors and officers, as the case may be.  For example, are there major decisions that should require member approval instead of manager approval?

2.  New Definition: “Economic Interest Owner”

Similar to the definition of “company officials”, the definition of “economic interest owner” is new to the New LLC Statute, but the concept is not.    Under the Old LLC Statute, this concept was referred to as an “assignee”.  Like an assignee, an “economic interest owner” only has the economic rights of a member but not the non-economic rights, such as management rights, derivative action rights, and rights to information.  In contrast, a “member” has both economic and non-economic rights in the LLC.

The concept of “economic interest owner” is most relevant in the context of the buy-sell provisions of your operating agreement.  In general, involuntary events may cause a transfer of a member’s interest in the LLC (e.g. the death of member).  Your operating agreement hopefully provides an efficient way to address these situations, often referred to as buy-sell events.  As a related matter, your operating agreement in general should provide that any recipient of the transferred membership interest is merely an economic interest owner, not a member of the LLC (unless admitted pursuant to the member substitution or permitted transferee provisions of the operating agreement).

3.  Use of Operating Agreement to nullify New LLC Statute 

The phrase “except as otherwise provided in . . . a written operating agreement, . . .” was used throughout the Old LLC Statute.  This meant that the section of Old LLC Statute that this ubiquitous phrase preceded would apply to your LLC, unless your operating agreement contained express language to prevent or otherwise modify its application to your LLC.  In lieu of the repeated use of this phrase, the New LLC Statute more-succinctly and comprehensively provides that the New LLC Statute (other than seven enumerated exceptions) may be “supplemented, varied, disclaimed, or nullified” by the operating agreement.  Here again, this is not a concept that is new to the New LLC Statute.

More importantly, you need to understand those instances in which you do not want the New LLC Statute to apply to your LLC and draft your operating agreement accordingly.  For example, you generally want the bankruptcy of an individual member to automatically trigger that member’s withdrawal from the LLC but there are instances in which you may not want this to automatically happen.  Your operating agreement needs to account for these situations.

In summary, you do not need to make an appointment with your attorney to review your operating agreement solely based on the New LLC Statute, but if you have not addressed the issues described above with your attorney to assure that your operating agreement properly fits your business, now is the time to do so.   

Please contact me if I can assist you in any way with your North Carolina LLC  (; 828-254-8800).


Rick Jackson is an Attorney with the law firm of McGuire, Wood & Bissette, P.A.   He works primarily with small to mid-size businesses: technology and manufacturing companies; property owners, developers, and homeowner associations; medical and dental practices and hospitals; restaurants and breweries; agricultural and natural product businesses; and nonprofits.




North Carolina fully replaces its Limited Liability Company Statute

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

By Thomas C. Grella

On June 19, 2013, Chapter 57D of the North Carolina General Statutes was formally adopted by the NC Legislature and Governor, in effect completely replacing the current law applicable to the formation and regulation of limited liability companies. This new law goes into effect on January 1, 2014, with the existing statute, Chapter 57C being repealed as of that same date. You can review the whole new set of statutes at the following link:

Since the statute is a complete overhaul, it is not really possible to go into detail on every effective change to existing law. We do believe, however, that it is important that you are generally aware of the following broad points about the new law:

First, the law was apparently not changed to simply adjust new entity filing fees upward. The statute still indicates that the cost of organization of a new LLC is $125.

Second, there is a new distinction between the owner of a membership interest in an LLC, and the holder of an economic interest. This seems to follow what other states have adopted. A person will now be able to have an economic interest in an LLC, without necessarily rising to the level of member (and having the non-economic rights that go along with membership).

Third, the new statute spells out in detail that an “operating agreement” is to govern the internal affairs of an LLC. The new statute permits the terms of an operating agreement to supplant much of what is required of an LLC in new Chapter 57D, however, the LLC statute lists numerous specifics that cannot be nullified by the operating agreement.

Fourth, the new statute more clearly spells out the priority of terms between a written operating agreement, filed articles of organization, terms of the new statute and oral agreements between the parties. Generally, the terms of the written operating agreement are going to control subject to those specific areas where the statutory requirements cannot be modified.

Fifth, the new statute recognizes that some LLC’s appoint other “officials” to manage the business, such as officers (president, Vice President, etc.) typically used in other forms of entities. This may have been going on for years, and the new law now gives recognition to this preference by some businesses.

 The new Act will apply to all LLC’s regardless of whether they were formed before or after January 1, 2014.

 As noted, this is just a brief overview of a few of the changes in the new law. Certainly as to those changes mentioned above, we have not given enough detail to constitute legal advice. If you need further information, or have specific questions about how the new law might affect your entity, or planning for organization of future entities, please give any one of the members of our Corporate Team a call.