M & A Law Prof Blog

Editor: Brian JM Quinn
Boston College Law School

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Mistakes M&A Lawyers Make

RARE Hospitality International, Inc. announced on Friday that it will be acquired by Darden Restaurants, Inc. for $38.15 per share in cash in a transaction valued at approximately $1.4 billion.  The acquisition will be effected via tender offer, showing yet again that the cash tender offer is reemerging as a transaction structure (see my post the Return of the Tender Offer).  Darden is financing the acquisition through cash and newly committed credit facilities.  And the deal is the latest in the super-hot M&A restaurant-chain deal sector.      

A perusal of the merger agreement shows a rather standard industry agreement.  RARE's main restaurant chain is LoneHorn Steakhouse, and so merger sub is called Surf & Turf Corp. -- the bounds of creativity in M&A.  There is a top-up which is also fast becoming a standard procedure in cash tender offers.  This top-up provision provides that so long as a majority of RARE’s shares are tendered in the offer, RARE will issue the remaining shares to put Darden over the 90% squeeze-out threshold.  RARE's stock issuance here cannot be more than 19.9% of the target's outstanding shares due to stock exchange rules, and cannot exceed the authorized number of outstanding shares in RARE’s certificate of incorporation. 

I looked for any new gloss on the Material Adverse Change clause to address current market conditions.  There was nothing that appeared to address the particular situation, although any non-disproportionate "increase in the price of beef" is a MAC-clause trigger; apropos for a steakhouse chain.  Finally, for those interested in topping Darden’s bid, the termination fee is $39.6 million.  If another bidder makes a superior proposal, then under Section 5.02(b) of the merger agreement, RARE cannot terminate the agreement "unless concurrently with such termination the Company pays to Parent the Termination Fee and the Expenses payable pursuant to Section 6.06(b)".  The only problem?  Expenses is used repeatedly throughout the Agreement as a defined term everywhere except 6.06(b) -- which makes no references to Expenses or even expenses.  In fact, it appears that nowhere does the agreement define Expenses.  Transaction expenses can sometimes be 1-2% of additional deal value, a significant amount that any subsequent bidder must account for.  So how much should a subsequent bidder budget here?  Or to rephrase, what expenses must RARE pay if a higher bid emerges?  And how can RARE terminate the deal to enter into an agreement with another bidder if RARE does not know which expenses it is so required to pay?  Darden may also want similar certainty as to its reimbursed expenses, if any, in such a paradigm.  Lots of questions in this ambiguity.  Not the biggest mistake in the world, but Wachtell, attorneys for the buyer, and Alston & Bird, attorneys for the seller, both have incentives to fix this one.

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Lawyers, Material Adverse Change Clauses, Merger Agreements, Tender Offer | Permalink

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