Value of a Business Between Owners

Buyers who are involved with the business will not pay for the “know-how” or “good will” of a business that a buyer outside the business would consider purchasing. Generally, an inside sale (where the market consists of buyers involved with the business) will not have as high a purchase price as an outside sale (where the market consists of buyers not involved with the business). The term “fair value” is used in legislation and court decisions to indicate the value of business interests between owners of a business. The term “fair market value” is used to indicate the value of a business to those purchasing the business and not involved in the business. Fair value, the value between business owners, results in computation of an overall business value that is less than a presumed fair market value. A minority interest in a closely-held business will be highly devalued for lack of control by a market consisting of buyers not involved with the business, while a market consisting of buyers involved with the business might place a premium on an interest that when acquired would merge with an existing interest to become a majority interest.

Owners will have as a goal the increased value of the business, but when it comes to measuring the value of the business and then incorporating the value concepts into an owner’s agreement which contains buy-sell provisions, the concepts often become convoluted. It can get worse because there are more complications, those involving terms of sale and circumstances motivating the sale.

There is an old saying among negotiators: “If you give me my terms, I will give you your price.” Simply put, if all the proceeds of the sale are not paid immediately then the time involved before payment will decrease the present value of the sale. If the purchaser is not going to pay the entire purchase price immediately, the time factor involved in the payment discounts the value of the price. If purchasing owners do not have the funds to buy out another owner, it is still preferable to have a sale with payment of part of the purchase price deferred. (Usually this means that the future success of the business will determine whether the selling owner is paid.)

If the owner selling the business interest is dead, there are circumstances that create the nature of the market which will cause potential buyers to offer less. If the owner selling the business interest is disabled, there are circumstances that create the nature of the market that may cause a discounting of the price a buyer will offer. If the owner is selling because of a dispute with other owners, especially if the departing owner is going to compete with the business, there are circumstances that create the nature of the market which will cause the discounting of the value of the business interest. Note that none of these circumstances potentially affect the essential worth of the business interest over time – they are market causes for a decrease in purchase price for a certain transaction.