As we have noted in prior M&A Updates, when dealmakers face a transaction where one or both of the parties are incorporated outside the Delaware comfort zone, they often confront unexpected structuring issues unique to entities or deals undertaken in that state or country. These may include corporate law, tax, accounting or structuring concerns and, most often, the deal teams will have to adjust the transaction terms to accommodate these issues.
But a recent decision from the Virginia Supreme Court is a timely reminder that, on occasion, these issues can be managed using some resourceful and creative structuring involving shifting jurisdictions. In the case, a Virginia corporation planned to sell its assets which, under Virginia law, would trigger appraisal rights for minority stockholders. Seemingly to avoid this result, the seller undertook a multi-step restructuring ahead of the sale which began with a “domestication” under Virginia law that shifted its jurisdiction of incorporation to Delaware. Under the Virginia statute, no appraisal rights apply to such a reincorporation. Once reincorporated in Delaware, the seller continued its restructuring, ultimately selling its assets to the buyer. Notably, Delaware does not provide for appraisal rights in an asset sale. The Virginia court dismissed the minority stockholders’ argument that they were entitled to appraisal rights. It rejected a “steps transaction” argument that looked to collapse the multiple steps and focus on the substance of the transaction (i.e., a sale of the company’s assets to the buyer), favoring instead the seller’s assertion that the first-stage move to Delaware had independent legal significance and therefore was effective to shift the appraisal rights analysis to Delaware law.