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The Importance of Shareholders’ Agreements

Key take aways

  • Protecting shareholder rights: Shareholders’ agreements set out the rights and obligations of shareholders, ensuring fair treatment and protection from unfair actions by other shareholders.
  • Enhancing corporate governance: Shareholders’ agreements establish clear guidelines for decision-making, appoint directors, outline voting rights, and determine procedures for dispute resolution, thereby improving corporate governance and facilitating smooth operations.
  • Minimising disputes: Shareholders’ agreements proactively address potential conflicts, such as transfers of shares, exit strategies, and succession planning, reducing the likelihood of internal disputes and providing a roadmap for the company’s future.

Protecting shareholder rights


A shareholders’ agreement is a legally binding contract among the company and its shareholders that outlines the relationship between shareholders, their rights and obligations, and the operation of the business. The agreement provides a framework for decision-making, distinct from the company’s constitution, and gives shareholders a means to protect their interests.

One of the primary goals of a shareholders’ agreement is to establish the rights and obligations of shareholders. For example, it can stipulate the transferability of shares, pre-emptive rights, or tag-along/drag-along provisions, ensuring fairness in any potential sales or transfers. It can also outline the distribution of dividends, the appointment of directors, and establish veto rights for certain decisions, such as major acquisitions or changes to the company’s capital structure.

Enhancing corporate governance and decision-making


Clear corporate governance practices are crucial to the success and stability of any company. A shareholders’ agreement acts as an additional layer of governance by establishing mechanisms for decision-making and dispute resolution. The agreement can provide procedures for approving major corporate actions and detail voting rights, helping to prevent deadlocks or disputes among shareholders.

Shareholders’ agreement can outline the process by which board representatives or key management personnel are appointed, providing stability and a degree of control for shareholders in managing the company. It can also establish protocols for the resolution of disputes, such as mediation or arbitration, allowing shareholders to address conflicts efficiently and maintain business relationships.

Minimising disputes and planning for the future


By addressing potential conflicts and uncertainties in advance, shareholders’ agreements help minimise the possibility of disputes among shareholders. The agreement can include provisions for buy-back and exit strategies, offering a clear process for shareholders to sell their shares and exit the company should they wish to do so.

Shareholders’ agreements can set out procedures to ensure smooth succession planning, enabling an orderly transfer of shares in the case of death or retirement of a shareholder. This protects the ongoing stability of the company by ensuring that new shareholders align with the existing shareholders’ long-term strategy.



Shareholders’ agreements play a pivotal role in establishing important safeguards, protecting shareholder rights, and providing clarity in corporate governance. They actively address potential disputes and uncertainties, allowing shareholders to focus on growing their business and mitigating risks that may arise along their journey.

Seeking professional legal advice to draft or review a shareholders’ agreement is critical to ensure it meets legal obligations as well as the specific needs and requirements of the company and its shareholders.

Contact mdp Law today to discuss your business requirements.

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Eliza Low

Eliza Low is an accomplished corporate and commercial lawyer who helps multinational corporations, entrepreneurial businesses and successful family-owned companies realise their investments, navigate legal risks and avoid unnecessary costs.

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