8. What is “continuity” of a business entity?
The continuity of the business entity concerns the effect on the business of a major change in the ownership and organization structure. More specifically, this question addresses what types of conduct by business owners can cause the business to dissolve. Owners of a business entity must understand the stability and durability of the organization if or when an owner leaves the business. Managers are concerned with the stability of customers and suppliers and should make certain that changes in ownership or structure do not have unintended consequences on the business operations. The primary change affecting the status of a business entity is the death or dissociation of an owner. In some instances this occurrence may be grounds for the dissolution of the business. Another dissolution event may arise through a limitation on the transfer of ownership by any individual in the business. Such a scenario may effectively dissolve the business if one individual wishes to liquidate her interest.
• Example: Mary, Bob, and I start carrying on business as a general partnership. We do not have a partnership agreement. When Mary decides to leave the partnership, the default rule is that the partnership dissolves.
• Discussion: Can you think of any situations where a business has faced serious turmoil when a co-owner leaves the company? Passes away? Declares personal bankruptcy? What were the primary issues and what was the result?
• Practice Question: Mike and Bryan are partners in a business venture. They have a partnership agreement. Bryan passes away and his will leaves his interest in the business to his wife, Jane. What information do you need to know to determine the status of the business entity? Why?