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Offered partnership over 3 years ago after signing non-compete agreement Florida

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  • Offered partnership over 3 years ago after signing non-compete agreement Florida

    Over three years ago I was approached by the owner of my company and offered partnership. I was one of the original employees of the company and it felt great that I was being rewarded for the countless hours of work building it. The company, at the time was doing roughly $3.5M annually. I waited several months and was told that the company had to go through a lawsuit to get the 25% back from a previous owner and then that 25% was going to be given to me. The partnership offer was made in September and the legal proceedings to obtain the 25% from the previous owner ended in January the following year. After several attempts to discuss it with the owner I was not able to discuss the partnership offer. I made numerous attempts to discuss the offer but was always rebutted with excuses on why he couldn’t meet with me.

    The owner approached me roughly a year and a half after he had made the original partnership offer and said that the only way he would give me the partnership is if I were to sign a non-compete agreement. I signed the agreement and we arranged a meeting with an attorney. We met with an attorney and the owner stated that I was going to be given 25% of the company and the attorney explained how to proceed. It stopped there. After another year, I approached the owner again about the partnership offer and he said that it didn't make a difference because he "considered me a partner" but just because it was not on paper didn't mean anything. I told him to stop patronizing me and that I have had several job offers from other companies that I couldn't pursue due to the non-compete contract I signed under the pretense of getting partnership.

    About 8 months ago I had a little girl and wanted to be sure that she had security in case something happened to me. I wanted to be sure that my family would be taken care of and protected since I was the sole provider and my company didn’t offer any type of insurance or retirement funds. The owner and I went to visit the attorney again and the attorney once again rehashed what we needed to do in order to get the paperwork drafted and the partnership finalized. This was 2 months ago and nothing has come out of it, again. I have asked the owner face to face and he constantly gives me excuses (accountant is out of town, didn't have time, it's the Holiday season, etc.). I have sent him numerous emails asking about the partnership, some he has responded to and others he claimed that he never received.

    The company is doing more than $6M a year and just purchased a building for $1M. I have been assigned a lot of new projects and after going back and forth for over 3 years about a partnership that we've seen an attorney about twice, my morale was not too high. I called the owner into his office and had a meeting with him regarding the situation. I told him that the lack of fulfillment on his end has affected my morale and his response to that was, "Well if you let something as measly as that affect your job performance then I should just fire your *** right now! You mean to tell me that you're stressing over this partnership issue and it is affecting your morale? That disgusts me!" Then he followed it up with, "Ok, you really want partnership? I'll sell it to you for $150,000...no wait, I'll give you a bargain, I'll give it to you for $75,000". We had already discussed it with the attorney that he was going to "give" me 25% because of my role in building the company and now he wants me to purchase it? After signing a non-compete agreement years prior?

    I currently make $125,000 annually and have been offered management positions with other companies for more pay and benefits that I cannot accept due to the non-compete agreement I signed to get partnership. Now he is trying to get me to purchase the partnership. I have discussions documented on paper between myself, the general manager, the owner, and the attorney. I also have numerous witnesses willing to testify that he indeed offered me 25% of the company if I signed a non-compete agreement but now he wants me to purchase the percentage.

    Do I have any legal rights here or am I just in a bad situation that I can't do anything about?
    Last edited by JohninMiami; 01-03-2008, 09:06 AM.

  • #2
    You need to show the non-compete you signed on condition of being made a partner in the business to a local attorney and get an expert legal opinion as to whether the contract is enforceable. The owner obviously isn't ever going to give you actual ownership in the business and particularly as you have no insurance benefits or retirement plan, I suggest you consult with an attorney and move on to a new opportunity as quickly as possible.

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