STV Engineers, Inc. v. Greiner Engineering, Inc., No. 88-1141

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore SLOVITER, GREENBERG and COWEN; COWEN; SLOVITER
Citation861 F.2d 784
Parties, Fed. Sec. L. Rep. P 94,360 STV ENGINEERS, INC., Appellantv. GREINER ENGINEERING, INC., Callahan, Frank T., Bowen, William H., Cleveland, Russell, Lenagh, Thomas H., Meyers, Harold J., Serafine, E. Max, Costello, Robert L. Sawyer, James, Militello, Sam, and Gunther, William E., Jr. STV ENGINEERS, INC., v. GREINER ENGINEERING, INC., Callahan, Frank T., Bowen, William H., Cleveland, Russell Lenagh, Thomas H., Meyers, Harold J., Serafine, E. Max, Costello, Robert L. Sawyer, James, Militello, Sam, and Gunther, William E., Jr. Appeal of GREINER ENGINEERING, INC.
Docket Number88-1150,Nos. 88-1141,No. 88-1141
Decision Date09 December 1988

Page 784

861 F.2d 784
57 USLW 2307, Fed. Sec. L. Rep. P 94,360
STV ENGINEERS, INC., Appellant No. 88-1141
v.
GREINER ENGINEERING, INC., Callahan, Frank T., Bowen,
William H., Cleveland, Russell, Lenagh, Thomas H., Meyers,
Harold J., Serafine, E. Max, Costello, Robert L. Sawyer,
James, Militello, Sam, and Gunther, William E., Jr.
STV ENGINEERS, INC.,
v.
GREINER ENGINEERING, INC., Callahan, Frank T., Bowen,
William H., Cleveland, Russell Lenagh, Thomas H., Meyers,
Harold J., Serafine, E. Max, Costello, Robert L. Sawyer,
James, Militello, Sam, and Gunther, William E., Jr.
Appeal of GREINER ENGINEERING, INC.
Nos. 88-1141, 88-1150.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued Aug. 29, 1988.
Decided Nov. 14, 1988.
Rehearing and Rehearing In Banc Denied Dec. 9, 1988.

Philip P. Kalodner (argued), Philadelphia, Pa., for appellant/cross appellee STV Engineers, Inc.

Page 785

Raymond K. Denworth, Jr. (argued), Mark M. Wilcox, Lawrence A. Nathanson, Drinker Biddle & Reath, Philadelphia, Pa., for appellee/cross appellant Greiner Engineering, Inc.

Before SLOVITER, GREENBERG and COWEN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

COWEN, Circuit Judge.

I.

In this case, STV Engineers, Inc. ("STV") seeks damages for an alleged breach of a provision of a Letter of Intent it signed with defendant Greiner Engineering, Inc. ("Greiner"). The Letter of Intent expressed a preliminary agreement between STV and Greiner that STV would acquire Greiner for a particular price. The provision at issue is a standard "no shop" provision, which barred Greiner or its representatives from soliciting a competing offer.

The district court found that Greiner breached the "no shop" clause when a group of Greiner managers sought financing for a competing management-led offer to purchase Greiner. Because we find that the district court erred when it construed the "no shop" clause to bar Greiner managers from seeking outside financing for a management buy-out proposal, we will reverse the district court's finding that Greiner breached the "no shop" provision. We hold that absent unusual facts not present in this case, a company's managers do not act for the company or as company representatives when they seek outside financing for a management-led buy-out.

II.

In the Spring of 1986, STV and Greiner, two publicly traded companies in the business of providing professional engineering services, were involved in discussions regarding a possible merger. After a period of discussions, the two agreed on the parameters of a transaction in which STV would purchase Greiner's 1.8 million outstanding shares of stock for $18 a share. A Letter of Intent was drafted to incorporate the agreed upon terms, and was approved by STV's Board of Directors on May 6, and Greiner's Board of Directors on May 7.

The Letter of Intent included a provision, at issue in this case, which provided that Greiner would not solicit or encourage a competing acquisition proposal. That provision, included as paragraph seven of the Letter of Intent, reads:

7. Greiner will not, and will not permit its representatives to, solicit or encourage any acquisition proposal; provided, however, that Greiner may furnish information concerning its business, properties or assets in respect to another solicitation if counsel to Greiner advises Greiner's Board of Directors that there would be a significant risk of liability on the part of the members of Greiner's Board of Directors as a result of failure to furnish such information to such other person. If an acquisition proposal is received by Greiner or any such information is so furnished, Greiner will promptly notify STV of such fact. Greiner may terminate this Letter of Intent at any time prior to the execution of the Agreement if it shall receive any acquisition proposal from any other person, which in the judgement of Greiner's Board of Directors is materially more favorable to its shareholders than the merger contemplated by this Letter of Intent. Greiner and STV have agreed that the provisions of this Paragraph 7 shall be legally binding upon them in accordance with the laws of Pennsylvania in consideration of the proposal made by STV and the time and expenses incurred by both STV and Greiner with regard to the proposal.

App. at 1464 (emphasis added).

Although the Letter of Intent was, by its terms, a "non-legally binding Letter of Intent," App. at 1462, its final paragraph noted that "neither party shall have any legally binding obligation to the other (whether under this Letter of Intent or otherwise), except under Paragraph 7." App. at 1464.

Page 786

After the Letter of Intent was approved by the companies' boards of directors, STV began efforts to meet the conditions precedent to the merger, which included securing financing, negotiating a merger agreement, and conducting a due diligence investigation. While the parties disagree on the progress of those efforts, they apparently agree on the fact that STV was proceeding in good faith to meet the conditions necessary for the merger to succeed. The district court found that "[i]t is fair to say that the proposed merger ... was on a track at the time of the termination." App. at 1377. The district court also found, however, that "there was much, much more to be done with regard to financing and there was serious doubt that it would ever get off the ground." App. at 1391.

After the Letter of Intent was signed, Greiner executives were informed of the proposed merger. 1 A number, apparently, were not enthused, and began organizing to investigate alternatives. The district court found that certain executives organized, collected contributions to pay for legal advice, and began investigating sources for financing a management-led leveraged buy-out. Specifically, two top managers, Sawyer and Militello, were found by the district court to have collected information regarding Greiner finances and sent it to Stewart Kahn, of Westinghouse Finance, whom they had contacted with regard to financing a management led buy-out.

At Sawyer and Militello's request, Kahn sent Frank T. Callahan, President and CEO of Greiner, a letter which indicated that "Westinghouse [was] prepared to make a proposal for the management buy-out of the shareholders ... at a price of approximately $19 per share." App. at 1517.

On June 9, 1986, Greiner's Board of Directors met to discuss the management buy-out proposal. After speaking with Kahn and verifying Westinghouse's interest in financing the proposal, the board voted to terminate the Letter of Intent so that it would be free to accept the managers' higher offer. Ultimately, the managers were unable to complete their proposed purchase and Greiner asked STV to reinstate its proposal. STV, however, refused, and responded to Greiner's renewed overture with this lawsuit.

After a bench trial on liability and certain damage issues, the district court ruled that Greiner had breached paragraph seven of the Letter of Intent. Specifically, the district court found that Sawyer and Militello had been acting as "representatives" of Greiner, as that term is used in paragraph seven, and that their contact with Westinghouse was a "solicitation" prohibited by the Letter of Intent. In so finding, the court rejected testimony that Sawyer and Militello, and the other managers participating in the management buy-out proposal, were acting as individuals. The district court reasoned that since the managers had little capital of their own, supplied Westinghouse with information about Greiner's finances, and planned to pledge Greiner assets to finance their bid, they could not be characterized as acting as individuals but instead were acting as representatives of Greiner.

The district court, however, found that STV would not have been able to complete the merger in any case, and limited STV's damages to $129,538 of reliance damages, rather than hearing evidence on and determining the value of the merger to STV. The court reasoned that "that breach could not be said to have been a cause of the inability of the merger to take place because of the speculative nature of the outcome of the many, many features of the merger that had yet to be completed...." App. at 1390-91.

In its appeal, STV argues that the district court erred when it limited STV's damages to reliance damages, when it precluded STV from presenting evidence on the value of the benefit of the merger, and

Page 787

when it made certain evidentiary rulings and findings of fact.

Greiner argues in its cross-appeal that the district court erred when it found that those Greiner executives participating in formulating the buy-out proposal breached paragraph seven when they sought outside financing for their proposal. It also argues that since none of the other facts put forward by STV could constitute a breach of paragraph seven, the district court's finding that Greiner breached the "no shop" clause should therefore be reversed.

In opposition to Greiner's cross-appeal, STV argues that in addition to the Sawyer/Militello effort to secure financing from Westinghouse, other actions of Greiner executives constituted breaches of paragraph seven. Specifically, STV argues that Greiner executives breached paragraph seven when they failed to stop the management group from pursuing the purchase, and when the Greiner Board, on June 9, terminated the Letter of Intent in response to a management proposal (supported by a letter from Westinghouse Finance) to purchase Greiner.

III.

A.

Because the issues raised in Greiner's cross-appeal, if resolved against STV, render the issues raised by STV's appeal moot, we will consider the cross-appeal first. The central issue of the cross-appeal is whether the Greiner managers were acting as individuals, or for Greiner or as its "representatives" when they engaged in a variety of actions to further the management buy-out proposal. 2 The scope of our review of the district court's determination...

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  • New Castle County v. Hartford Acc. and Indem. Co., Nos. 89-3814
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 29 Mayo 1991
    ...of CNA's policies and of its application of controlling legal principles is plenary. See STV Engineers, Inc. v. Greiner Engineering, Inc., 861 F.2d 784, 787 (3d Cir.1988). As we observed in Pacific Indemnity Co. v. Linn, 766 F.2d 754 (3d Determination of the proper coverage of an insurance ......
  • Pierce Associates, Inc. v. Nemours Foundation, Nos. 88-3053
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 3 Febrero 1989
    ...intent to the jury. The parties have not argued otherwise on this appeal. But see STV Engineers, Inc. v. Greiner Engineering Inc., 861 F.2d 784 (3d Cir.1988) (Sloviter, dissenting) (question of the intent of contracting parties with respect to ambiguous term is issue of contract interpretat......
  • CB Aviation, LLC v. Hawker Beechcraft Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:10-cv-1411-JD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • 8 Noviembre 2011
    ...language of the contract is clear, the court interprets the agreement. Nelson, 959 F.2d at 1263; STV Eng'rs, Inc. v. Greiner Eng'g, Inc., 861 F.2d 784, 787 (3d Cir. 1988). A court will find that a contract is not ambiguous if it "can determine its meaning without any guide otherPage 9than a......
  • NBT Bancorp, Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Financial Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 29 Marzo 1990
    ...despite the "best efforts" and "no-solicitation" clauses of the merger agreement (STV Engrs. v. Greiner Eng'g., 3rd Cir., 861 F.2d 784, 788). There is no allegation in the complaint that Kling's sharing of "nonpublic information" with defendants, as to the underlying circumstances of the ac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • New Castle County v. Hartford Acc. and Indem. Co., Nos. 89-3814
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 29 Mayo 1991
    ...of CNA's policies and of its application of controlling legal principles is plenary. See STV Engineers, Inc. v. Greiner Engineering, Inc., 861 F.2d 784, 787 (3d Cir.1988). As we observed in Pacific Indemnity Co. v. Linn, 766 F.2d 754 (3d Determination of the proper coverage of an insurance ......
  • Pierce Associates, Inc. v. Nemours Foundation, Nos. 88-3053
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 3 Febrero 1989
    ...intent to the jury. The parties have not argued otherwise on this appeal. But see STV Engineers, Inc. v. Greiner Engineering Inc., 861 F.2d 784 (3d Cir.1988) (Sloviter, dissenting) (question of the intent of contracting parties with respect to ambiguous term is issue of contract interpretat......
  • CB Aviation, LLC v. Hawker Beechcraft Corp., CIVIL ACTION NO. 2:10-cv-1411-JD
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • 8 Noviembre 2011
    ...language of the contract is clear, the court interprets the agreement. Nelson, 959 F.2d at 1263; STV Eng'rs, Inc. v. Greiner Eng'g, Inc., 861 F.2d 784, 787 (3d Cir. 1988). A court will find that a contract is not ambiguous if it "can determine its meaning without any guide otherPage 9than a......
  • NBT Bancorp, Inc. v. Fleet/Norstar Financial Group, Inc.
    • United States
    • New York Supreme Court — Appellate Division
    • 29 Marzo 1990
    ...despite the "best efforts" and "no-solicitation" clauses of the merger agreement (STV Engrs. v. Greiner Eng'g., 3rd Cir., 861 F.2d 784, 788). There is no allegation in the complaint that Kling's sharing of "nonpublic information" with defendants, as to the underlying circumstances of the ac......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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