Family Law

Editor:
John W. Dennis, Jr., Esquire

Value of a closely-held corporation must be as fair market value and application of a calculation of value via a buy-sell agreement not related to fair market value is error. Wood v. Wood, No. 96218 (Mo. App. W.D., November 29, 2011), Romines, J.

This was an appeal from a dissolution of marriage action. The Husband appealed the decision on several grounds, but it comes down to his challenge of the valuation of his 30% interest in a closely-held corporation. Both parties had an expert testify as to the value. Wife’s expert testified as to value based upon a buy-sell agreement formula that existed between the shareholders. Husband’s expert testified as to his opinion of the fair market value thereof. The trial court concluded that the Wife’s expert had properly assessed value $1.062 million versus $325,000 by Husband’s expert.

Held: Reversed.
Wife’s calculation failed to comply with [the rule that fair market value at time of trial is required because Wife’s expert] does not seek a fair market value or fair market value of [Husband’s interest in corporation.]”

“Furthermore, the formula does not even employ a current appraisal of [Husband’s interest in corporation.] As part of the calculation of present share value, and instead uses the historical value of company in 2007 at $3,000,000 as the starting point.”

“[W]here an expert’s testimony does not attempt to determine fair market value, the trial court simply cannot find it more persuasive and credible than another and rely on such testimony in valuing those shares.”

Dissent:
The dissent is based upon the technical failure of the Husband’s point relied on to preserve the issue for review on the basis found to be dispositive by the majority opinion. Consequently, the dissent would deem the claimed error not reviewable.