Articles Posted in Deadlock

For the closely held corporation, deadlock may be the result of a dispute among the shareholders, or among the directors in circumstances that the shareholders cannot fix by electing new directors.  Whether a court is asked to find deadlock under an applicable corporations statute or as part of a common-law remedy, deadlock is rarely found in circumstances in which there is no threat of significant or irreparable harm.

In this article, we will consider some of the circumstance in which courts have been asked to declare that a deadlock exists among the directors and/or shareholders of a corporation – often in a closely held corporation they are one and the same – and to fashion a remedy.  Most often the principal remedy in theINTERVIEW case of a “true deadlock” is the dissolution of the corporation, which entails the liquidation of the entity.  Courts rarely impose such an extreme remedy on a viable business entity, so such remedies as the sale of a minority interest, sale of the entity as a going concern or other types of injunctive relief are far more common.


A Series Examining Deadlock Among the Owners of Closely Held Corporations, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships


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INTERVIEWDeadlock occurs when the owners of a closely held business, be it a close corporation, partnership or limited liability company, are unable to reach a decision on some matter involving the business. Because deadlock is typically associated with businesses in which most or all of the owners participate directly in management, they are characterized by emotions, self-interest and not always rational.


A Series Examining Deadlock Among the Owners of Closely Held Corporations, Limited Liability Companies and Partnerships


In the simplest case, two 50/50 owners are unable to come to some decision that is critical to the business, for example whether to provide additional capital or give personal guarantees to a lender. Because the ownership is equally shared, the principals have to govern by consensus, or not at all.  This is true whether it is a corporation, limited liability company or partnership.

Shareholder Deadlock AttorneyIs an intractable deadlock among the shareholders good grounds to force the sale of a large, successful corporation? That was the issue before the Delaware Supreme Court in a case in which the trial court’s decision to sell the business as a going concern – over the objection of one shareholder –was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

In this case, a trial court’s ability to fashion and equitable remedy based on the circumstances of the case ran into direct conflict with the limited remedies that are available to minority shareholders under Delaware law.

Court Orders Sale of Corporation in Shareholder Deadlock

Court Appoints Receiver to Protect Partnership AssetsCourts loathe the appointment of receivers. First, it is often the death knell to any viable business. The appointment of a receiver is commonly good cause to default on virtually any well-drawn contract, and it send anyone otherwise interested in doing business running for cover.

However, when the dysfunction of the partnership puts the assets of the partnership at risk, a Court can and should appoint a receiver, holds the Appellate Court of Illinois in Schultz v. Halpin, 2016 IL App (3d) 160210-U (Ill. App., 2016).

Partnership Assets Must Be Protected in Dispute Says Court

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The romance of the new business venture has waned. There are disputes between the principals. Emotions are clearly running high. In short, this business marriage, consummated as a limited liability company, no longer works the way at least one of the parties intended. Is that enough under New York for the members of the LLC to get divorced? The answer from the New York Appellate Division, Second Department, is a resounding “No.”

The decision In re 1545 Ocean Avenue (opinion here), which involved a limited liability company formed for purpose of redeveloping property in Bohemia, NY. The LLC’s two members were business entities, Crown Royal and Ocean Suffolk Properties, both in the construction business, and the managers were the principals of those two business entities. Various disputes arose between the managers, including the price charged by one of the members for work on the project and the selection of an architect, and ultimately one of the members asked for a divorce and walked out on the project. The other member continued on, however, and with only a few weeks Crown Royal sought to dissolve the LLC.

Crown Royal claimed deadlock and the trial court granted the petition for dissolution. The Appellate Division reversed, holding that Crown Royal had failed to establish that the LLC had been prevented from continuing in accordance with the terms of its operating agreements. (New York law, you may recall, does not provide for the expulsion of individual members.)

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