Blaustein, et al. v. Lord Baltimore Capital Corp., et al., No. 272 (Del. January 21, 2014)
By Greg Hidalgo and Claire White
In this en banc decision, the Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment by the Chancery Court in favor of the defendants, and dismissed claims by the minority shareholder of a closely-held corporation for breach of fiduciary duty and the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in connection with the shareholder’s repeated requests for the corporation to repurchase her stock pursuant to a Shareholder’s Agreement. The Supreme Court confirmed that the protections afforded to minority shareholders in a closely-held corporation under Delaware common law are the same as those owed to shareholders in a publicly-held corporation, and held that directors of a closely-held corporation do not owe any special fiduciary duty to a minority shareholder to repurchase stock on favorable terms, or at all. In particular, the Supreme Court rejected the minority shareholder’s argument that she was entitled to a vote of the disinterested (or “non-conflicted”) members of the Board of Directors on her repurchase proposals. Citing Nixon v. Blackwell, the Court emphasized that a minority shareholder should rely on contractual protections to provide liquidity for the investor’s shares, and noted that the relevant provision of the Shareholders’ Agreement granted the corporation discretion as to whether to engage in a repurchase transaction, and as to price. The Supreme Court also held that the Chancery Court correctly concluded that there was no implied covenant to negotiate, in good-faith, a stock purchase price, relying on the express terms of the Shareholders’ Agreement as evidence that the parties had bargained for a permissive stock repurchase provision.