In Basho Technologies, Inc. v. Georgetown Basho Investors, LLC, C.A. No. 11802-VCL (Del. Ch. July 6, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery reaffirmed the principle that a stockholder with actual control of a corporation violates its fiduciary duties by advancing its own interests to the detriment of the corporation. Applying the entire fairness standard in its decision following trial, the court held that Georgetown Basho Investors, LLC (“Georgetown”), the controlling stockholder of Basho Technologies, Inc. (“Basho”), owed and breached fiduciary duties to Basho as a stockholder with actual-but not majority-control. The court ultimately awarded plaintiffs Earl Gallaher (“Gallaher”) and various investment funds under his control (the “Plaintiff(s)”) damages in the aggregate amount of $20,268,878.
In In re Appraisal of Solera Holdings, Inc., C.A. No. 12080-CB (Del. Ch. July 30, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery, applying an adjusted deal price analysis in a statutory appraisal proceeding, determined that the fair value of the stock of Solera Holdings, Inc. (“Solera” or the “Company”) at the time of its March 2016 going-private merger transaction was $53.95 per share–the deal price less estimated synergies. The Court reached this conclusion after thoroughly examining and ultimately rejecting the use of (a) the discounted cash flow (“DCF”) analysis, proposed by seven investment funds that were former stockholders of Solera (the “Petitioners”) and the (b) the unaffected market price analysis, proposed by Solera in supplemental briefing in response to the use of such analysis in Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018). Read More
In Mudrick Capital Management, L.P. v. Globalstar, Inc., C.A. No. 218-0351-TMR (Del. Ch. July 30, 2018), plaintiff Mudrick Capital Management L.P. (“Mudrick Capital”), a minority stockholder of defendant Globalstar, Inc. (the “Company”), brought a demand under Section 220 of the Delaware General Corporate Law (“Section 220”) to inspect certain communications and documents relating to the Company’s proposed merger with Thermo Acquisitions, Inc. (“Thermo”). The Delaware Court of Chancery granted Mudrick Capital’s demand for certain emails, communications and valuation materials relating to the merger, and denied Mudrick Capital’s demand for certain internal draft materials.
In Verition Partners Master Fund Ltd. v. Aruba Networks, Inc., C.A. No. 11448-VCL (Del. Ch. May 21, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery denied a motion for reargument of its earlier decision setting the appraisal value of the shares of Aruba Networks, Inc. (“Aruba” or the “Company”) at the time of its acquisition by Hewlett-Packard Company (“HP”). Although the merger agreement offered $24.67 per share of the Company, and the Company ultimately suggested that the fair value of the Company’s shares was $19.75, the Court of Chancery set the fair value of the Company’s shares at $17.13. In denying the motion for reargument, the Court of Chancery reiterated its position that the trial court must independently determine the fair value of the shares in an appraisal proceeding and that the market price of a publicly traded firm can itself be an accurate measurement of fair value.
In Carr v. New Enterprise Associates, Inc., C.A. No. 20170381-AGB (Del. Ch. Mar. 26, 2018), the Delaware Court of Chancery, in denying in part and granting in part a motion to dismiss, reaffirmed the principle that a controlling stockholder, when acting outside its capacity as a stockholder, cannot use the corporation to advance the controlling stockholder’s self-interest at the expense of minority stockholders. In the context of defendants’ motion to dismiss, the court found that it was reasonably conceivable that the controlling stockholder of American Cardiac Therapeutics, Inc. (“ACT”) and its conflicted board of directors had breached their duty of loyalty to ACT’s minority stockholders by approving a sale of a warrant to a third party that included an option to acquire ACT, allegedly at an unfairly low price, in order to incentivize the third party to also acquire and invest in the controlling stockholder’s other portfolio companies.
In In Re Appraisal of PetSmart, Inc., C.A. No. 10782-VCS (Del. Ch. May 26, 2017), the Delaware Court of Chancery confirmed in a statutory appraisal proceeding that the fair value of the shares of common stock of PetSmart, Inc. (“PetSmart” or the “Respondent”) at the time of its going-private merger transaction was the deal price of $83 per share. The Court reached this conclusion after thoroughly examining and ultimately rejecting the use of the discounted cash flow (“DCF”) analysis to determine fair value as proposed by a group of plaintiff former stockholders of PetSmart (the “Petitioners”).
In Merion Capital L.P. v. Lender Processing Services, Inc., No. 9320-VCL (Del. Ch. Dec. 16, 2016), the petitioners, Merion Capital L.P. and Merion Capital II L.P. (together, “Merion” or “Petitioners”), issued a post-trial opinion in an appraisal proceeding arising from the acquisition by merger (the “Merger”) of Lender Processing Services, Inc. (the “Company” or “Respondent”) by Fidelity National Financial, Inc. (“Fidelity”). After a four-day trial, the Chancery Court concluded that the fair value of the Company’s stock at the effective time of the Merger was the merger price as a result of a properly conducted sale process.
In determining the fair value of stock of a privately held corporation at the time of a cash-out merger in connection with an appraisal action by minority stockholders—where one of the minority stockholders’ experts proffered a fair value greater than eight times that provided by the company’s expert—the Delaware Court of Chancery found that the valuation method used by the company’s expert was unreliable. The Court held that in this case the discounted cash flow analysis is the most reliable indicator of fair value because (1) the company’s stock is not publicly traded, (2) historical sales of stock are not reliable indicators of fair value, and (3) no comparable company valuation exists.
Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP v. BMC Software, Inc. concerns an appraisal proceeding under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in which the Chancery Court found that the deal price generated by the market through a thorough and vigorous sales process was the best indication of fair value.
On September 13, 2013, the petitioners, Merion Capital LP and Merion Capital II LP (together, “Merion”), filed a Verified Petition for Appraisal of Stock pursuant to 8 Del. C. § 262 (the “Appraisal Statute”) against respondent, BMC Software, Inc. (“BMC”). The action stemmed from a merger pursuant to which BMC’s stockholders were cashed out at a price of $46.25 per share (the “Merger”). Merion (who the court noted are “arbitrageurs who bought, not into an ongoing concern, but instead into this lawsuit”) owned 7,629,100 shares of BMC common stock. The Court presided over a four day trial in this matter, at which Merion presented expert testimony claiming that the stock was undervalued and BMC presented expert testimony claiming that the Merger price actually exceeded fair value.
Merlin Partners LP v. AutoInfo, Inc., C.A. No. 8509-VCN (Del. Ch. April 30, 2015) (Noble, V.C.) concerns an appraisal proceeding under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law in which the Chancery Court found that, where there was a strong sale and negotiation process, and there were no reliable cash flow projections from which to make a discounted cash flow analysis and there were no sales of comparably sized companies in the same business, the price received in the merger was the best indication of fair value at the time of the merger.
Petitioners were former common stockholders of Respondent, AutoInfo, Inc. (“AutoInfo”) who exercised their appraisal rights in connection with AutoInfo’s merger with Comvest Partners (“Comvest”) at a price of $1.05 per AutoInfo share. AutoInfo was struggling financially and had begun a sale process in 2011 using an investment bank, Stephens Inc. (“Stephens”), which had long experience in the applicable industry, transportation. As part of the process, Stephens asked AutoInfo’s management to prepare five year financial projections that were “optimistic” to be used to market AutoInfo. Management had never prepared similar projections before and was doubtful of the validity of the results.
By Michelle Repp and Marisa DiLemme
Halpin v. Riverstone National, Inc. concerns a group of minority stockholders seeking appraisal despite a “drag-along” provision in a Stockholders Agreement. The Chancery Court found that the “drag-along” provision was not enforceable in this merger situation because the stockholders received notice of the merger only after the transaction had been consummated and the Stockholders Agreement only gave a prospective “drag-along” right, not retrospective.
In Halpin, five minority common stockholders (the “Minority Stockholders”) of Riverstone National, Inc., a Delaware corporation (“Riverstone”), sought appraisal of their shares after a June 2014 merger of Riverstone with a third party. The merger was approved by the written consent of Riverstone’s 91% controlling stockholder, CAS Capital Limited (“CAS”), on May 29, 2014. Riverstone counterclaimed against the Minority Stockholders and sought summary judgment in its favor on the appraisal claims based on a stockholders agreement (the “Stockholders Agreement”) between Riverstone and the Minority Stockholders entered into in 2009 that included a drag-along obligation of the Minority Stockholders. The Chancery Court, ruling on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment, granted the Minority Stockholders’ motion and denied Riverstone’s motion.
In response to demands for appraisal of Ancestry.com shares, the Chancery Court found that the agreed upon merger price, which was greater than the price determined by the Court’s discounted cash flow analysis, represented the fair value of the shares.
On January 30, 2015, the Delaware Chancery Court in In re: Appraisal of Ancestry.com, Inc., C.A. No. 8173-VCG (Del. Ch. January 30, 2015) (Glasscock, V.C.) issued its determination as to the fair value of shares held by petitioners at the time of Ancestry’s acquisition by Permira Advisors. Ancestry stockholders received merger consideration of $32 per share; petitioners in this case sought appraisal under Section 262 of the Delaware General Corporation Law.
In an appraisal proceeding, because neither the petitioner nor the respondent has a burden of proof, the burden falls on the Court to establish fair value. The Court said that the statute requires it to consider all relevant factors, and while the agreed upon price is one of the relevant factors, the Court must go beyond that.
With respect to sale itself, the Court found Ancestry’s auction process sufficiently robust to make the price it generated a reliable and relatively untainted indicator of value. However, it also made its own discounted cash flow analysis, after dissecting discounted cash flow analyses presented by petitioners’ and Ancestry’s experts, whose valuations differed significantly. Among other things, Vice Chancellor Glasscock found the experts’ analyses problematic because they were based on projections prepared by Ancestry’s management for the purpose of selling the company and for the purpose of making it possible to obtain a fairness opinion with regard to the price a buyer was likely to pay. In the end, Vice Chancellor Glasscock came up with a discounted cash value that was slightly below the agreed upon merger price. He then ruled that the sale price (i.e., the merger price) best represented the fair value, and said his discounted cash value analysis gave him comfort that no undetected factor skewed the sale process. It is noteworthy that if the Vice Chancellor had determined that the value of the Ancestry shares was the value yielded by his discounted cash flow analysis, the petitioners would have received less than the price paid in the merger.