Sports — 21 May 2014

Special to American News Report

How do I fire my business partner?

On June 3rd, the National Basketball Association is going to start its attempt to fire one of its partners, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, Donald Sterling. By now everyone knows the situation. The 80-year old billionaire’s conversation with a young female companion was taped and he was heard uttering comments that have been described as racist.

1024px-Cliff_Wildes_NBA_sponsor_with_Donald_Sterling_owner_of_LA_ClippersThe NBA says Sterling’s comments have financially injured the league. They have set a hearing for June 3, after which other team owners will vote to decide the future of his ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

For Sterling, the NBA and much of the world, this is high drama.

“In the world where the rest of us live, this question comes up time and time again in different forms,” said Alan Fishbein, a partner in an Ellicott City, Maryland law firm. “Can I fire my partner?”

The answer is yes, possibly.

“The second thing you do is go back to the contract that created the partnership in the first place,” said Fishbein. Of course the first thing you do is hire a lawyer.”

As is the case with Donald Sterling, any change in a business relationship most likely won’t be easy.

“You have to work through a maze of legal questions—like the terms of the equity investment, formalizing terms of employment and whether there’s an exit strategy,” Fishbein said.

The attorney also pointed out the hard work is not done at the end of a business relationship but at the beginning.

“Creating the right type of contract and understanding when you start the business relationship makes getting out of it a lot easier,” Fishbein emphasized. “A solid buy/sell agreement go a long way in both preventing and resolving disputes and also keep courts from guessing what the business partners may have been thinking when the relationship started.

Speaking of Sterling and the NBA, did Fishbein feel like making a prediction?

“Absolutely not,” he said. “But like everyone else, I’ll be watching with great interest.”


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