Partnership disputes and other legal disagreements within management can derail any closely-held business. When that business is held by an Ohio family, they can threaten to tear a family apart.
Recently, a court ruled in favor of the cheesemaker giant Leprino Foods and its majority shareholders in a dispute that pitted two women against their 85-year-old uncle.
Leprino Foods supplies cheese to pizza restaurant chains such as Domino’s and Pizza Hut, selling 1 billion pounds of cheese a year and taking in $3.5 billion in revenue per year. By some estimates, 85% of all mozzarella in the United States is supplied by Leprino.
While its footprint in the industry is huge, the company has remained privately held, with more than 75% of its shares owned by its 85-year-old founder James Leprino and his two daughters. Leprino’s brother owned the remaining shares, and passed them on to his three daughters after his death in 2018.
Two of those daughters filed suit against the company, their uncle and their cousins, alleging that they had been denied business opportunities. A jury found against them.
Family drama and business disputes
While Leprino Foods’ place in its industry may be unique, this type of business litigation is not uncommon.
Family-owned and other privately-held companies can often work well for many years, but may face major problems after one of the owners dies or decides to retire and sell their shares.
Disagreements between the owners can disrupt personal relationships and the business alike — especially if the partnership agreement or other organizing documents of the company do not provide a method for resolving these disputes.
Business owners can protect themselves and their companies by seeking out experienced legal help.