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Protection from an About Face

Splitting Up

You've probably heard about the recent dispute between Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. We could sum up the news thusly: Don't join a business without a signed agreement.

A partnership is worth the paper it's inked on. No matter how long you've known someone, the depth of your friendship, or the assurances that have been made through countless emails, an oral contract is brutal to try and enforce in court, even for a partnership that has been public-facing and branded as such for over a decade.

Plus, this crucial sentence stood out for me in Frere-Jones's claim against his former partner: "…between their agreement in 1999 and March 2004, the partners developed, expanded, and grew HTF without any corporate formality. This ratified Hoefler's and Frere-Jones's 50-50 partnership agreement."

You've been trying to cement this partnership agreement since 1999? Ugh. We're talking more than a decade without crisp legal assurance of a partnership.

Someone is a true friend if they insist on ratifying ANY critical agreement or employment contract with you in writing. Such an agreement protects both parties and their shared interests, under the law.

Read the formal claim for the lawsuit. Then don't do what they did.

No matter who wins this case, it will impact the perceived value of their (once shared) business. See this Gizmodo piece for a more in-depth analysis of the legal situation.


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