What is a Letter of Intent? Part 1 of 3: Purpose

Letter of IntentYou will often hear us state in our blog articles Stephen Covey’s well-known maxim: “Begin with the end in mind.”  This very much applies to a Letter of Intent, and it’s one of the most important parts of a business sale.

It’s so important, in fact, that we’re doing a three-part series on it.  This article is going to focus on the purpose of the Letter of Intent, often referred to as the LOI.

What is it?

A LOI is essentially a “term sheet.”  It details a purchase price and any other terms or conditions that a buyer may stipulate in the purchase of your business.

Now, “Letter of Intent” does sound fancy, but there’s usually limited “legalese” in a LOI, and generally, it’s nonbinding.  This means that both the buyer and the seller retain the ability to walk from any deal should terms for a final closing not be agreed to.

Put another way, the LOI is a blueprint for the sale, so while it’s nonbinding, it’s a serious document.  Whatever appears in a LOI is generally considered to be a “good faith” negotiating point and if, as a seller, you don’t accept everything in the letter, you should definitely have it amended before signing it.

What’s the purpose of the LOI?

The LOI serves a purpose for both the buyer and the seller.  For the buyer, it provides exclusivity during a certain time period.  For the seller, the LOI is a serious and demonstrated interest in a purchase, and there is often a deposit that’s put down to accompany the LOI.  For both parties, it’s a prologue to a hopeful conclusion and gives the basic outline for the mountain of due diligence that awaits both of them.

Is there any reason you wouldn’t sign an LOI?

Simply put?  Yes, for the same reason you wouldn’t sell (remember, begin with the end in mind), namely, price and terms.

If you sign a LOI too early, before the buyer is better informed about your business, you may get a lower price and weaker terms.  They are building in risk into their offer.  Don’t be afraid to push back on a LOI, or counter with more information (like a certified valuation) which de-risks the business for them and indicates why you think the price and terms are too low.

You may also receive an “indication of interest” prior to an LOI with a valuation range.  In fact, if the buyer is aggressive and insistent on an early LOI, take a step back and be cautious.  Is this someone you will want to work with?

In the next part of this mini-series, we will examine the structure of a LOI.

Apex is actively looking for Advisors to join our team. If you or someone you know would like to learn more, contact Doug Hubler at dhubler@kcapex.com or 913-433-2303

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