Family Offices, Businesses and Entrepreneurs

Working at the intersection of business, legal, tax and generational issues, Gould & Ratner guides family offices and closely held businesses by addressing the fundamental challenges they face. We serve as advisors to entrepreneurs in matters related to:

  • Income tax planning
  • Mergers & Acquisitions
  • Domestic & cross-border tax planning
  • Generational wealth transfer
  • Wealth protection and asset preservation
  • Philanthropic matters

Business Successions and Governance

Our Family Office Practice began 75 years ago through our representation of the Crown family, whom we continue to serve. We have leveraged that experience to benefit the nearly 1,000 ultra-high net worth and high net worth families and entrepreneurs we counsel today. We have unique insights into matters related to the operation and succession of closely held businesses, and the design of organizational and governance documents addressing:

  • Shareholder and owner governance agreements
  • Voting
  • Major decision making
  • Cash flow planning
  • Financing
  • Compensation for insiders and employees
  • Independence for passive owners
  • Exit strategies
  • Succession planning

Second and Third Generations of Counsel

For many our family clients, Gould & Ratner has become part of their legacies, as we continue to be trusted advisors to the next, second and third, generations of families seeking to grow, preserve and leverage wealth. We help families consider and resolve how businesses are owned and managed. We help owners find ways to assure that all stakeholders thrive, including management, owners and employees.

We help nurture families’ community and charitable commitments. We also help management understand and support family members who prefer to operate outside of businesses and commercial enterprises. Our family office and administration services balance a business perspective, backed by comprehensive corporate law resources, with the goals of financial security and the health, harmony and success of future generations.

Benefiting the Next Generation

Ensuring that today’s business opportunities will benefit the next generation is a top priority, as illustrated by our work with a large real estate company run by a three-generation family with 13 siblings. The complex and seemingly conflicting issues threatening the business were daunting for the family, but not for us.

We leveraged our experience to educate and communicate options to the family. Then we developed optimal equity, exit and decision-making processes. Not only did the family and its businesses maintain equilibrium, but we also established how the next generation could participate in the growth of the business in a tax-efficient way.

M&A and Transactions for Family Offices

We represent some of Chicago’s most prominent entrepreneurs and families with interests across a wide range of industries. Mergers, acquisitions, dispositions and joint ventures factor heavily into family business decisions to buy, expand and invest in a business or a business-related private investment. We advise high net worth families on tax efficiencies to handle asset appreciation and to protect initial investment pools from any risks associated with a new entity.

For example, Gould & Ratner recently worked with a closely held leader in the power industry in its acquisition of an international platform. We worked with the family to resolve issues of financing (private or outside capital) and to structure a transaction that allowed the ascending third generation to benefit from the upside. Additionally, we helped the business contain any potential liabilities, designed an equity inclusive plan for key people and established exit strategies for owners.

Tax Advantages for Family Office Transactions

Tax issues are at the core of Gould & Ratner’s family office services. We factor the implications of tax structures into every aspect of family business transactions, and seek to maximize the tax benefits and minimize liabilities in clients’ business operations because we understand that it is after-tax return that counts.

Our corporate team proactively participates in the initial stages of buying, selling or merging a business. We use sophisticated tax structures and a strong understanding of financial instruments and markets. As tax terms and deal negotiations go hand in hand, we work with our family office clients to negotiate optimal tax advantages in every transaction.

As families and their offices expand in sophistication and geographic footprint, we incorporate related resources in corporate, tax and estate planning, litigation and real estate to provide full-service, comprehensive counsel. Whether working with a single, first-generation family business founder, or multifamily, multigenerational enterprises, we can devise and implement strategies to address all facets of the business and business owner’s tax, financial and succession planning goals. We excel in guiding clients in such areas as:

  • Owner relationships
  • Partnerships and similar agreements
  • Succession planning
  • Business reorganizations
  • Split interest ownership of business and investment assets
  • Family trusts
  • Gifts of business interests
  • Generation skipping planning
  • Philanthropic planning
  • Tax controversies

Family Office Wealth Protection and Asset Preservation

At the heart of family-owned businesses is the desire for the family to create and preserve a legacy. Our success in finding workable and strategic solutions in support of wealth and asset protection is the value our firm brings to the family offices we serve.

Gould & Ratner has acted as general counsel for Chicago’s Crown family and as the family office counsel for other prominent local families for more than 75 years. We have earned a reputation for guiding entrepreneurs and family offices in the successful transition of stakeholders in the business, from one generation to the next, while managing risks. Experienced in anticipating the unique concerns of families with multiple goals, we address the seemingly disparate and concurrent needs of family members seeking active leadership of a business and those preferring liquidity.

Worldwide Counsel

Increasingly, family offices are responding to globalization and opportunities in emerging markets and across borders. Through our leadership in LawExchange International, a global legal network, we can advise family offices wherever their interests lead them. We have close relationships with high-quality lawyers throughout North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and South America to ensure that clients’ needs are satisfied seamlessly worldwide.

Representative Matters

  • Advise family and other entrepreneurial businesses on tax efficient ownership structures.
  • Advise multi-generation families and their businesses in developing and implementing strategies to assure transition and continuity of family business activities, long-term wealth transfer and charitable goals.
  • Designed, structured and implemented key management synthetic equity compensation plans to align management goals with family ownership strategic plans.
  • Advisor to active ”hands-on” private philanthropic ventures.
  • Assisted management team in a multimillion-dollar leveraged buyout transaction to acquire equity through qualified and nonstatutory option plans.
  • Designed and implemented a spinoff of unwanted corporate assets from core corporate business operations.
  • Serves as outside general counsel to numerous multigenerational entrepreneurial businesses.
  • Designed, structured and implemented corporate acquisition transactions, including tax-deferred roll-over of management equity.
  • Assisted with tax structure and related planning for acquisition of major retail and related operations out of bankruptcy.
  • Representation of beneficiaries of highly-contested estate involving closely-held family businesses and complex financing issues requiring coordination with international financial lending institution.
  • Advisor to closely held corporate businesses in design and implementation of various deferred compensation and pseudo-equity plans for key management personnel.
  • Assisted owners of a closely held business with the buyout of family members no longer active in the operation of the business.
  • Advisor to family businesses seeking to minimize the onerous C-Corporate taxation without incurring the traditional costs associated with the corporate liquidation process.
  • Advisor to entrepreneurial start-up companies in structuring the interests held by the capital and service providers to maximize the deferral of tax payments and the after-tax proceeds

Family Offices, Businesses and Entrepreneurs Team