What is a Shareholders' Agreement?
A Shareholders' Agreement is a contract made by the owners of a company (shareholders) and often the company itself. It's like a set of rules that control how the shareholders work together and manage the company. It explains their rights and responsibilities, which helps protect each shareholder.
Even though having a Shareholders' Agreement is not required by law, it's really important. People might skip it to save time and money, but not having one can lead to arguments between shareholders, which can be expensive to solve. This article talks about why having a Shareholders' Agreement is a good idea and why a company should use one right from the start.
Decide Who Gets Shares:
If there's no plan in the Shareholders' Agreement or the company rules for selling shares, anyone can buy them. This means a shareholder could sell their part of the company to someone the others don't know or even to a competitor. With a Shareholders' Agreement, the other shareholders can choose to buy those shares first. If they don't want to, the new shareholder must agree to the rules in the agreement.
Control How the Company is Run:
Usually, the people on the company's board of directors make decisions about how the company works. Shareholders don't usually get to decide. But a Shareholders' Agreement can make the directors ask for permission from the shareholders before making big decisions, like changing important rules or spending a lot of money. This is really useful when some directors are not shareholders themselves.
Protecting Smaller Owners:
A Shareholders' Agreement can help small shareholders by saying that everyone must agree on certain things, like changing the company rules. This stops the bigger shareholders from making choices that only help them. Also, the agreement can let small shareholders sell their shares if the big ones are selling too. They'll get the same deal as the big shareholders.
Helping the Big Owners:
The Shareholders' Agreement might also let big shareholders make small ones sell their shares if the big ones are selling. This way, they can all sell together and not stop a sale.
Sometimes, the shareholders and directors won't agree on things. This can stop the company from working. A Shareholders' Agreement can have a plan for what to do if this happens. It might say that one side can buy the other out, or that they should find a way to agree. It's hard to solve these problems with just the company rules, so an agreement is better.
Even when everyone means well, there might be arguments about the company. These fights can waste time and money. A Shareholders' Agreement helps avoid these fights by telling everyone how to solve disagreements. This way, people don't have to use harsh methods to fix problems. Instead, they focus on making the company better.
This article has been produced for general information purposes and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor.