November 04, 2004
Oops, you thought we had a deal?
Another South Carolina jury—see the Vince Carter story below—has ordered a utility company to pay $48 million to a disappointed bidder for one of its divisions. The utility, SCANA, was looking to sell its propane division back in 1999. Heritage Propane bid $73.5 million, which was apparently the highest bid at the time, but SCANA continued to shop the division around, eventually selling it to a competitor of Heritage for $20 millon more.
SCANA argued that it had a fiduciary duty to its shareholders to maximize the sale price. “If you're selling your house,” said a company spokesman, “and one buyer comes in and offers a better price over other interested parties—and you don’t have a signed contract—you take the better offer. It’s plain and simple. We feel the verdict is unjustified and contrary to accepted business practices.”
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