Business divorce on steroids. That’s how I describe the tenor of litigation that can erupt when members of a family-owned business have a falling out.
No one has devoted more scholarship to the challenging intersection of law and conflict in the family-owned business than Benjamin Means, Associate Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law.
Longtime readers of this blog may recall a two-part online interview of Ben that I posted a few years ago (read here and here), in which he answered a series of questions about his groundbreaking law review article entitled Non-Market Values in the Family Business. The article uses social science and expansive notions of contractual relations in advocating for courts to give greater weight to what he calls “family values” in adjudicating corporate dissolution and other disputes among shareholder-members of the same family.
It’s been said we’re in the midst of a massive transition of family business ownership by the baby boomer generation, which can only mean an increased incidence of succession and wealth transfer disputes leading to litigation made all the more difficult by the typical absence of bargained-for, forward-thinking written agreements among the family members who co-own the business. Ben’s studies and legal analyses of conflict in family businesses therefore could not be more timely or relevant for members of the judiciary and for business divorce practitioners.
I’m pleased to report that Ben accepted my recent invitation for an interview on my Business Divorce Roundtable podcast, in which my colleague Matt Donovan and I explored with Ben in greater detail some of the issues and ideas raised in his articles on conflict in the family business. You can listen to it by clicking on the link at the bottom of this post.
For those interested in learning more about Ben’s scholarship concerning the family-owned business, I recommend the following articles available on SSRN:
- Non-Market Values in Family Businesses, 54 William and Mary Law Review 1185 (2013)
- The Contractual Foundation of Family-Business Law, 75 Ohio State Law Journal 675 (2014)
- Contractual Freedom and Family Business, Research Handbook on Partnerships, LLCs and Alternative Forms of Business Organizations (2015)
- Wealth Inequality and Family Businesses, 65 Emory Law Journal 937 (2016)
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