When the sale of a business falls apart, everyone involved in the transaction is disappointed – usually. Sometimes the reasons are insurmountable, and other times they are minuscule – even personal. Some intermediaries report a closure rate of 80 percent; others say it is even lower. Still other intermediaries claim to close 80 percent or higher. When asked how, this last group responded that they require a three-year exclusive engagement period to sell the company. The theory is that the longer an intermediary has to work on selling the company, the better the chance they will sell it. No one can argue with this theory. However, most sellers would find this unacceptable.
In many cases, prior to placing anything in a written document, the parties have to agree on price and some basic terms. However, once these important issues are agreed upon, the devil may be in the details. For example, the representations and warranties may kill the deal. Other areas such as employment contracts, non-compete agreements and the ensuing penalties for breach of any of these can quash the deal. Personality conflicts between the outside advisers, especially during the due diligence process, can also prevent the deal from closing.
One expert in the deal-making (and closing) process has suggested that some of the following items can kill the deal even before it gets to the Letter of Intent stage:
- Buyers who lose patience and give up the acquisition search prematurely, maybe under a year’s time period.
- Buyers who are not highly focused on their target companies and who have not thought through the real reasons for doing a deal.
- Buyers who are not willing to “pay up” for a near perfect fit, failing to realize that such circumstances justify a premium price.
- Buyers who are not well financed or capable of accessing the necessary equity and debt to do the deal.
- Buyers who are inexperienced and unwilling to lean heavily on their experienced advisors for proper advice.
- Sellers who have unrealistic expectations for the sale price.
- Sellers who have second thoughts about selling, commonly known as seller’s remorse and most frequently found in family businesses.
- Sellers who insist on all cash at closing and/or who are inflexible with other terms of the deal including stringent reps and warranties.
- Sellers who fail to give their professional intermediaries their undivided attention and cooperation.
- Sellers who allow their company’s performance in sales and earnings to deteriorate during the selling process.
Deals obviously fall apart for many other reasons. The reasons above cover just a few of the concerns that can often be prevented or dealt with prior to any documents being signed. If the deal doesn’t look like it is going to work – it probably isn’t. It may be time to move on.