Archive: September 2017

Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen – Deadlocked Management Leads to LLC Dissolution

By Scott E. Waxman and Reese Brammell

In In re GR BURGR, LLC, C.A. No. 12825-VCS (Aug. 25, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery exercised its power under Section 18-802 of the Delaware Limited Liability Company Act to effect the judicial dissolution of GR BURGR, LLC (“GRB”). GRB was a Delaware limited liability company formed by an entity affiliated with celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (“GRUS”) and Rowan Siebel, each owning a 50% membership interest. This structure, along with the LLC Agreement’s lack of a tiebreaker, effectively turned any action requiring a majority vote of the managers into a unanimous vote. The relationship between the members eventually deteriorated, and the company, formed for the purpose of developing and operating burger restaurants, became locked in a stalemate regarding its future operations. GRUS petitioned for dissolution Section 18-802. The Court found that the undisputed facts entitled GRUS to such relief and, rejecting Siebel’s claims that dissolution was not equitable, granted the same.

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF CONTRACT AND FIDUCIARY DUTY CLAIMS BROUGHT UNDER AN UNENFORCEABLE CONTRACT

By Scott E. Waxman and Michael Bill

In Eagle Force Holdings, LLC v. Campbell, No. 10803-VCMR (Del. Ch. Ct. September 1, 2017), the Court of Chancery dismissed plaintiffs’ breach of contract and fiduciary duty claims against the defendant due to a lack of personal jurisdiction over the defendant. Plaintiffs argued the defendant consented to personal jurisdiction in Delaware by entering into the (1) Contribution and Assignment Agreement (the “Contribution Agreement) and (2) Amended and Restated Limited Liability Company Agreement (the “LLC Agreement,” and together with the Contribution Agreement, the “Transaction Documents”), but the Chancery Court found the Transaction Documents to be missing material terms and, thus, held them to be unenforceable.

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CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES BREACH OF CONTRACT CLAIM DUE TO PLAINTIFF’S FAILURE TO PROFFER A REASONABLE CONSTRUCTION OF MERGER AGREEMENT PROVISION

By: Christopher H. Cunningham and Joseph Phelps

In Fortis Advisors LLC v. Shire US Holdings, Inc., No. 12147-VCS (Del. Ch. Aug. 9, 2017), the plaintiff, Fortis Advisors LLC, which was acting as representative (the “Representative”) for the former stockholders of SARcode Bioscience Inc., a private biopharmaceutical company (the “Target”), pursuant to a merger agreement, alleged that the acquiror Shire US Holdings, Inc., a Delaware subsidiary of a global biopharmaceutical company (the “Acquiror”), breached the provisions of a merger agreement by refusing to pay certain milestone payments that were due.  The Court of Chancery granted the Acquiror’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a breach of contract claim, concluding that, while the Acquiror’s interpretation of the operative provision at issue was reasonable based on its plain and unambiguous language, the Representative failed to proffer a competing reasonable construction of such provision and thus the Court was required to grant the motion to dismiss.

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Chancery Court Holds that Express Merger Provisions Prevail Over Alleged Extra-Contractual Misrepresentations

By Josh Gaul and Will Smith

In Sparton Corporation v. Joseph F. O’Neil et al., Civil Action No. 12403-VCMR (Del. Ch. August 9, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety because the plaintiff failed to state a claim for fraud and breach of contract. Seeking extra-contractual relief from a merger agreement, the plaintiff-buyer claimed, among other losses, $1.8 million in damages caused by the sellers’ misrepresentation of the target company’s working capital. The plaintiff argued that the defendant-sellers’ alleged extra-contractual misrepresentations warranted judicial intervention despite express anti-reliance and exclusive remedy provisions in the merger agreement.

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Court of Chancery finds personal jurisdiction over out-of-state trust due to trustor’s involvement in the formation of Delaware LLC

By:  Scott E. Waxman and J. Tyler Moser

In Terramar Retail Centers, LLC v. Marion #2-Seaport Trust U/A/D/ June 21, 2002, Civil Action No. 12875-VCL (Del. Ch. August 18, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied an out-of-state defendant’s motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, finding that defendant’s trustor was actively involved in negotiating both the underlying business deal and the terms of the operating agreement of the Delaware limited liability company at issue. Read More

CHANCERY COURT DISMISSES STOCKHOLDERS’ BREACH OF FIDUCIARY DUTY AND AIDING AND ABETTING CLAIMS RELATING TO STOCK-FOR-STOCK MERGER

By Remsen Kinne and Calvin Kennedy

In In re MeadWestvaco Stockholders Litigation, the defendants moved to dismiss class action claims brought by stockholders of MeadWestvaco Corporation (the “Company”) for breach of fiduciary duty and aiding and abetting claims relating to the Company’s board of director’s approval of a strategic stock-for-stock merger of equals entered into between the Company and Rock-Tenn Company that closed in 2015.  The court held that the complaint did not contain factual allegations sufficient to state a claim against the directors for bad faith in connection with the approval of the merger.

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CHANCERY COURT DECLINES TO DISMISS FIDUCIARY CLAIMS ARISING FROM A SELF-TENDER OFFER

By Lisa Stark and Dean Brazier

In Buttonwood Tree Value Partners L.P., et al. v. R.L. Polk & Co., Inc., et al., C.A. No. 9250-VCG (Del. Ch. July 24, 2017), the Delaware Chancery Court denied, in part, a motion to dismiss claims for breach of the fiduciary duty of loyalty brought by minority stockholders in R. L. Polk and Co., Inc. (“Polk”) against the directors of Polk and members of the Polk family, who controlled Polk, in connection with a self-tender offer.  In this case, the Court held that it was reasonably conceivable that the Polk directors who were affiliated with the Polk family deliberately caused Polk to conduct a self-tender offer at a low price to enable Polk family insiders to maximize their proceeds from a future sale of Polk.

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IN MERGER-RELATED SUIT, ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE PREVAILED OVER GARNER CHALLENGE

By: Kevin Stichter and Nathan G. Harrill

In Salberg v. Genworth Financial, Inc., C.A. No. 2017-0018-JRS (Del. Ch. July 27, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied the demand by the plaintiff stockholders (the “Stockholders”) for books and records from defendant Genworth Financial, Inc. (“Genworth”) under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.  Genworth asserted the attorney-client privilege and the Stockholders sought to invoke the “celebrated” Garner fiduciary exception.  While the § 220 demand was made in the context of a pending merger, influential to the ruling was the fact that the requested books and records were relevant to a separate derivative action among the same parties.  Although most of the Garner “good cause” factors weighed in favor of an exception to the privilege, the court held that the unique facts and circumstances surrounding the Stockholders’ demand barred them from accessing privileged information that was shielded from discovery in the derivative suit.

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