Telling the truth about SME life today

Paul McCartney vs Heather Mills.

Ah. The pre-nup. Can anything be more romantic for a couple in the throes of all-consuming love, than a legally binding contract which delineates their assets” Surely not.

"Business partnerships are a bit like marriages,” says RB editor Kate Pritchard. “You don’t go into one thinking it might fail, but all too often it ends in an acrimonious split.”

So, even if you are starting a company with the love of your life, cover your back.

“Business partners ought to get a shareholders’ agreement, which is a bit like a pre-nup, setting out how they will deal with disputes over issues such as share value and death in service. They need to do this when they’re dating, not divorcing,” says Jo Haigh, corporate financier and author of The Business Rules.

Be warned: Mills has just been awarded £24.3m in her divorce settlement. It’s fair to say your average Joe Bloggs doesn’t have that sort of cash, but it’s all relative.

Mills and the former Beatle were only married four years. Mr X, MD of a chemical company, had worked with his FD for going on 20 years. (He prefers to remain anonymous for legal reasons.) Imagine his shock when he discovers his partner and long-time friend has been cooking the books.

“I went through my FD’s desk and found out the taxman was on our back,” he says. “That was a growing up moment that you never forget. You think you know people and you don’t.”

“He wasn’t only a director in the business, he was a shareholder. Had he put up a fight, it would have closed the business down. Fortunately he took the gentleman’s way out.”

The FD was a bounder, but at least he took the pearl-handled revolver. It could have been disastrous.

Take this poor chap we stumbled upon at a forum. He’d worked for a husband and wife company for two years, and the pair have just cut him out of the loop, despite unpaid wages and the promise of shares. Intrigued You can read his sad tale here.

Of course, RB dared to ask if he’d brought the situation upon himself, had an affair perhaps?

Have your say in our forum

What’s the difference between Heather Mills and Northern Rock?

One’s got £25million, is a bit wobbly and screws old people out of their life-savings..

…The other one’s a building society.

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