Monday, September 9, 2019

Buying an Existing Franchise

This topic was called to mind because, at the the moment, I am representing two franchise buyers who are looking to acquire existing, established franchises. This is not my first rodeo in this arena. But, these recent clients reminded me of the complexities involved.

At first thought, you might think purchasing an existing franchise location would be simpler than starting from scratch. Well there are pluses and minuses. 

In a straight-up franchise purchase from a franchise company there are only two parties typically involved from the outset: the buyer and the franchise company. Sure, franchise purchases are complicated and should not be pursued without competent legal and accounting assistance. However, you are essentially starting with a clean slate; and you have time to assemble the complimentary pieces (training, leases, vendors, etc.).

When you buy an existing franchise, the players multiply: the selling-franchisee, the selling franchisee's lawyer and accountant, the current landlord, sales brokers, current customers, in-place vendors, lenders, the franchisor, and you, the buyer ... and hopefully your lawyer! More parties = more complications. Coordinating all these people and pieces usually falls on the buyer's shoulders.

As a result, the transaction process is multi-staged, and contingencies abound. Most of these deals are asset-based, meaning the buyer is acquiring the selling franchisee's existing assets, inclusive of the franchise rights. The first step is usually a Letter of Intent (LOI). This outlines the general terms and offering price but typically is not a binding contract. That follows in the form of an Asset Purchase Agreement, providing much more detail and conditions than stated in the LOI.

Assuming an Asset Purchase Agreement (APA) is executed, the fun begins! The APA should, among many other things, indicate that the deal is contingent on approval of the franchisor, the landlord, any lender. Each one of these buckets has its own hoops to jump through. For instance, the franchise company will want to qualify the buyer in the midst of everything else going on and the lender will want to vet the franchise company and the business offered for sale. Landlords want to qualify the new tenant! And you need to review and accept the franchise agreement, the lease, and any loan terms.

So where is the payoff Jim, the pluses? Although it may be less complicated to start from scratch, an existing franchise has existing customers or, at least, should have. Established customers mean instant revenue. The trade-off is that purchasing an existing franchise will generally be more expensive than developing from scratch, since you are acquiring the established goodwill along with the other assets.

A lot more could be written on this but you get the picture! Be careful out there!


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