If you’re considering buying or selling a business, you may have heard about an “earn-out” arrangement. It allows the buyer to pay a portion of the purchase price based on the future performance of the acquired company. It will enable the seller to receive a higher price for their business if they perform well after the sale and the buyer to mitigate their risk by tying a portion of the payment to future results.
However, earn-outs can also be complex and contentious, and it’s essential to have a well-drafted earn-out agreement in place to avoid disputes down the line. Throughout this article, we’ll explore the critical elements of an earn-out deal and how sellers and buyers can tailor them to meet their needs.
An earn-out agreement’s first and most crucial element iscrucialormance metric used to determine the earn-out payment. This metric can be anything from revenue or earnings to customer retention or product development milestones. It’s essential to choose a measurable, verifiable metric directly tied to the performance of the acquired business.
For example, if you’re acquiring a software company, use the number of active users or the revenue generated from a specific product line as the performance metric. If you’re developing a service-based business, use customer satisfaction ratings or the number of new clients acquired after the sale.
Setting clear targets and timelines for achieving the performance metrics is also essential. As a result, the buyer and seller can avoid disagreements later on if they define success differently.
The earn-out period is the time the performance metric will be measured. That can range from a few months to several years, depending on the nature of the business and the performance metric chosen.
Generally, the longer the earn-out period, the more risk the buyer takes. That is because more factors can affect the performance of the acquired business over a more extended period. However, a longer earn-out period may also provide more upside potential for the seller if the company performs well.
It’s essential to strike a balance between the length of the earn-out period and the risk/reward profile of the deal. That is where the expertise of an earn-out Connecticut attorney can be invaluable in helping to negotiate and draft an earn-out agreement that works for both parties.
The earn-out percentage is the portion of the purchase price tied to the performance metric. Again, that can range from a low rate (e.g., 5%) to most of the purchase price (e.g., 75%).
It is critical to determine the earn-out percentage based on the risk/reward profile of the deal and the likelihood of achieving the performance metric targets. The more risky the deal and the more challenging the performance metric, the lower the earn-out percentage should be. Conversely, a higher earn-out rate may be appropriate if the deal is low-risk and the performance metric is readily achievable.
The payment terms of the earn-out agreement should be clearly defined to avoid disputes down the line. For example, it includes the timing of the earn-out payments, any conditions that must apply before fees are due, and any interest or penalties for late payments.
It’s also important to consider how the earn-out payments will be structured. For example, will they be paid in a lump sum at the end of the earn-out period or in installments over time? If the latter, how often will payments be made (e.g., monthly, quarterly, annually)?
Additionally, it’s essential to consider what happens if the buyer defaults on the earn-out payments. Will there be penalties or interest charged? Will the seller have the right to terminate the agreement and seek legal recourse?
Confidentiality and Non-Compete Provisions
Earn-out agreements often contain provisions related to confidentiality and non-compete agreements. That protects the buyer’s interests and ensures that the seller does not engage in activities that could harm the acquired business.
Confidentiality provisions can include restrictions on the seller’s ability to disclose confidential information about the acquired business, such as customer lists or trade secrets. Non-compete provisions can prohibit the seller from competing with the acquired company for a certain period after the sale.
It’s essential to work with an earn-out Connecticut attorney to ensure that these provisions speak in an enforceable way under Connecticut law.
Dispute Resolution Mechanisms
Additionally, it is necessary to consider how to resolve disputes related to earn-out agreements. That can include provisions for mediation, arbitration, or litigation.
Mediation can be a valuable tool for resolving disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner, as it involves a neutral third party who helps the parties to reach a mutually acceptable resolution. Arbitration is another alternative to traditional litigation that can be faster and less expensive than going to court. However, it’s essential to carefully consider each dispute resolution mechanism’s pros and cons and choose the one best suited to your situation.
An earn-out agreement can be a valuable tool for buyers and sellers in M&A transactions, as it allows them to share risk and reward based on the future performance of the acquired business. However, having a well-drafted earn-out agreement is crucial to avoid disputes.
The critical elements of an earn-out agreement include the following:
- The performance metrics.
- Earn-out period.
- Earn-out percentage.
- Payment terms.
- Confidentiality and non-compete provisions.
- Dispute resolution mechanisms.
By working with an experienced earn-out Connecticut attorney, you can ensure that your earn-out agreement is tailored to your specific needs and protects your interests.
Are you considering an earn-out arrangement for your M&A deal? Don’t take any chances with your legal agreements. Instead, contact an experienced earn-out attorney today to help you navigate the complexities of earn-out contracts and protect your interests in the deal.