Business partners fall out over the division of the company

Two car dealers fell out with each other. Having decided to split up the business, they were unable to agree on the final division of the business assets.

As happens in many partnerships, the partners, former friends, each had their own way of thinking and working. Their skills also differed:

One partner was an excellent salesman who had the capacity to promote the services on offer in a beautiful showroom. For him, ‘presentation’ was very important. Together with his wife, he liked to stay in chic establishments, sipping from a glass of champagne.

The other was a technician who had his own externally located workshop, replete with all the equipment and tools of the trade. Here, he was lord and master. He let the quality of his work speak for itself. He loved his work, but he spent as much time as possible with his wife, who was suffering from a protracted illness, and his children.

When differences complement each other, the combination can lead to great results, as it did for many years with these two partners. But as soon as there’s a hitch and the differences become exacerbated, this can result in a degree of irritation. As it did in this case.

Our assignment

When separating, the division of the business premises and the equipment formed part of the dispute, aside from the goodwill. The negotiations became very intense and neither party would budge an inch. Both had their heart and soul in the company. With no end in sight and with things so much at loggerheads, the parties ended up in court.

Our assignment: to represent the interests of our client, ‘the technician’.

Our approach

Feelings ran high, even during the court session. This continued until one of the lawyers from Hoens & Souren asked the judge for an adjournment so as to discuss matters with the client, and then with the counterparty. The judge consented.

In the corridor, our lawyer discussed the issue in detail with the technician, who was there together with his wife, despite her illness. The couple were clearly very emotional, having reached the end of their tether. Our lawyer asked if he was right to assume that for them, the most important things were job satisfaction and ‘family time’. They answered in the affirmative. The lawyer outlined a future scenario with a small workshop serving pleasant, steady customers, enough time for the family, and the means to enjoy that little bit extra together. This in full knowledge that this was not what the ‘salesman’ wanted. He preferred to keep showing off his large showroom and to continue plying his clientele with praise and flattery.

Our client and his wife were open to the following strategy, which was then discussed with the counterparty: the ‘salesman’ could keep using the business premises under the same name and with the latest equipment, whereas the technician would ‘only’ get to keep his small workshop, his tools and materials, plus a small sum of money. The value that this represented would in all likelihood be less than what the counterparty’s grand showroom with all its equipment was worth, but it was enough to allow the technician to spend more time with his family in a nice location elsewhere in the Netherlands –  and this is what they did.

The result

The parties shook hands on the way out and wished each other the best for the future. Everyone was happy to see this conflict resolved and to have peace and quiet once more. Three months later, the technician’s wife died from her protracted illness.

Contact Mathieu Souren