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Oasis bust up: Cautionary tale for family firms

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“No doubt the managers of Oasis will have a tight legal framework for the band’s business affairs given their famously combustible relationship,” says Ian Hodgkinson of law firm Mace & Jones partnership. “But it does act as a reminder that many businesses also end in disagreement when the business partners, like Noel and Liam, can no longer work together. Understandably families tend to trust each other but as Oasis has so graphically shown the pressures of working together can sour even the closest family relationship. In Oasis’ case the brothers couldn’t put aside their differences despite their commercial success and this is frequently the case when partnerships split.”

The UK’s three million family businesses account for over 30 per cent of gross domestic product, have a combined turnover of more than £1,000bn, employ 9.5 million people and hand the government £47bn in tax receipts a year, ten per cent of the annual total.

Hodgkinson says the best way to prevent a potentially costly, drawn-out and complicated partnership break-up is to set up a legally drafted partnership agreement.

“The agreement is the partnership’s roadmap – it gives it a constitution,” he says. “This ensures that if the business partners fall out, there is a clear structure for splitting the assets of the business. This includes intellectual property, the business name, property and any future earnings. Without a partnership agreement winding up the firm can become an acrimonious ‘free for all’.

"For example, individual partners may attempt to hijack customer lists and contacts and even the name of the partnership," he continues. "This can lead to lawyers becoming involved at a very early stage and court injunctions being sought to bring order to the process.”

For further information contact ian.hodgkinson@maceandjones.co.uk

Related articles:The great British family firmJoining a family firm: the low-down for non-execs

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