Understanding the specifics of a business divorce

Peter Mahler: In business divorces, specific expertise is required.
By CARL CORRY //

Breaking up is hard to do, so Uniondale-based law firm Farrell Fritz has set up a practice group to make things as easy as possible for companies going through a business divorce.

Led by partner Peter Mahler, the group counsels owners of privately held businesses in disputes with business partners and in corporate dissolutions. It’s an expansion of a business niche that the firm – which focuses on real estate, tax and business law – has been involved in for years.

It’s also an area that Mahler has been speaking and writing about for decade. He’s been writing about business breakups weekly on his New York Business Divorce blog since 2007, and earlier this year launched a weekly podcast, “Business Divorce Roundtable.”

Mahler’s goal has been to bring “much greater recognition of business divorce as a specialty,” he told Innovate LI.

“We’re trying to educate the business owners,” the Farrell Fritz partner said. “If you get involved in one of these disputes, you need someone who understands the intricacies involved.”

Services provided by the group include structuring and documenting buyouts, liquidations and other forms of business reorganization resulting from judicial proceedings or settlements. Mahler said the group consists of a multidisciplinary cross-section of litigators, corporate lawyers and tax attorneys.

Practice group members include Matthew Donovan, Lyle Mahler, Stephen Melore, Franklin McRoberts, Jeffrey Rust, Michael Schoenberg, Louis Vlahos, James Wicks and Aaron Zerykier.

Mahler noted that about half of the business-divorce cases Farrell Fritz deals with involve family members, which tends to “inject highly emotional elements” into the proceedings.

“When you have a father or a mother against a child, it’s not just a normal litigation,” the attorney said, and deep feelings often bubble up to the surface – making it all the more important that those involved hire attorneys with experience specific to these areas.

Mahler, who joined Farrell Fritz in 2004 with a primary focus on business-divorce cases, said the firm decided to formally create the group “as a result of a critical mass.” In recent years, Mahler said his biz-split blog has been a driver of business, particularly among younger clients.

“I’ve never missed a Monday,” he said of his weekly posts. “It’s really a passion of mine.”

Now, with the podcast, the veteran attorney is once again showcasing his particular expertise, while attempting to tap another pool of potential clients.

The podcast features guest speakers including appraisers, mediators, judges and other attorneys.

“It’s a great entree into developing relationships with people,” Mahler noted. “I love doing it, and we’ll see where it goes.”