Just two weeks ago in glorious sunshine we gathered at the beautiful Eastwell Manor just outside Ashford. Temperatures were in the low twenties, and although the stunning russet and golden colours of the leaves heralded autumn it felt more like summer. Fast forward to today and while the skies are still blue it is more than 10 degrees colder and we’ve had the first sharp frosts of the season. How apt when you consider the topic of our deliberations on that day was ‘Succession Planning’!
We were taking the time to think about planning for both the expected and the unexpected handover of a business built up and nurtured over years. And then over this last weekend the issue has again been brought into sharp focus by the tragic helicopter crash which has killed the owner of Leicester City FC. One’s heart goes out to the family, but from a business perspective it was at least a relief to hear Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha had already handed over most of the day to day involvement in the football club to his son. Small comfort of course – but it will give that successful sports business a good chance of emerging through the tragedy intact.
Those events just highlighted to me the core messages we heard from our speakers at Eastwell Manor. Simon Crookston of Crowe UK gave an engaging presentation (yes, and he’s a Tax Accountant!) on the ways it is possible to plan tax effectively for passing on a business. One of the areas I personally found interesting was his discussion of how it is possible to bring in management as shareholders to incentivise them and build a team who could in future become the core ownership as well as management team, in tax effective ways. Some of the terms he used such as ‘freezer shares’ and ‘growth shares’ may have sounded a little esoteric, but with the examples he shared it became clear to us that there are some really practical ways of transferring a business in a way that both benefits those that built it up originally, and those whose efforts are ensuring its success into the future.
Succession may of course mean sale and Girlings’ Chris Brightling talked not only about the process of making sure your company is shipshape so you can profit from both the chance approach as well as the planned sale, but also of the details and burdens of a sale process itself.
It was also salutary to be reminded by Charlotte Nock of Girlings of how so often even rudimentary legal planning gets ignored. Making a Will is easy and not expensive. However, so many people fail to take this basic step. We were reminded of a string of famous names who have recently died intestate including - Aretha Franklin, Prince and Amy Winehouse. Charlotte also highlighted how important it is to review your Will from time to time because of changes in both personal circumstances and in the shape and value of your business.
Those present were taking a couple of hours from busy lives to take stock. It was a good thing to do. The next step is of course to act on the ideas and thoughts that will have been generated.
If you want to talk through any of the issues raised please contact:
Please read Reliance on information posted in our Terms of Website Use - see Legal section - before relying on this commentary.