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Three Famous Partnership Breakdowns

10 February 2014

For every successful partnership, there will of course be many more that fall by the wayside. Sometimes this is perfectly amicable, but there have been several high profile occasions where the split has been a little more combustible.

Here are just three cases of famous business partnership going dramatically wrong:

Mark Zuckerberg and Eduardo Saverin

Familiar to millions after its depiction in the 2010 film The Social Network, the fallout between these two Facebook founders has become one of the most talked about business break-ups of all time.

The former friends developed the original Facebook during their time at Harvard, and the Hollywood depiction indicates that Saverin was forced out of the company thanks to a betrayal on the part of Zuckerberg.

However, closer inspection suggests that Zuckerberg elected to try and cut Saverin out of the company for a number of fairly valid reasons, including that the latter had allegedly been using Facebook as a free ad platform for his own project.

The pair settled in 2009, with Saverin reducing his stake from over 30% to 5%. Now based in Singapore, he has since stated he harbours no ill feeling towards Zuckerberg.

Steve Jobs and John Sculley

In 1985, a youthful Steve Jobs became embroiled in a business dispute with then-Apple CEO John Sculley over the marketing strategy for the company’s Macintosh Office computer.

Jobs wanted to drop the price of the failing product and focus the company’s advertising attention onto it, away from the Apple 2. Sculley replied that such a strategy was likely to cause the company to lose money, and declared his intention to take the matter to the board.

What followed was one of the most famous oustings in business history, as company co-founder Jobs was forced out by a group of directors who sided with Sculley’s point of view.

Of course, Jobs later returned to Apple and enjoyed great success, while Sculley was fired along the way. At a conference earlier this year, Sculley reflected that more could have been done to facilitate a solution and keep Jobs with the company.

Adi and Rudolf Dassler

This famous sibling rivalry ended up dividing a whole town back in the 1940s, as German brothers Adi and Rudolf Dassler acrimoniously broke up their successful shoe-making business.

Having started manufacturing footwear together in 1924, the pair saw their shoes worn by athletes at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics. Eight years later, the Berlin Olympics were lit up by American runner Jesse Owens, who competed wearing Dassler trainers.

However, during the Second World War the relationship between the brothers deteriorated dramatically, and there has been much speculation about whether their political leanings were to blame.

Whatever the reason, in 1947 Rudolf walked away and began making shoes on the other side of town, eventually settling on Puma as a company name.

Adi stayed put and continued making trainers under the name Adidas. The two companies fought for marketplace success for many years as they courted the affections of various sports teams and athletes, but in September 2009 the current bosses agreed to call an official end to the feud.

Prepare for the worst

While everyone involved in these disputes eventually achieved their own level of success, not every partnership breakdown will have a happy ending. For this reason, it is important that you make provisions within your partnership agreement in case things go wrong.

Doing so could mean you avoid the levels of acrimony on display in the above cases, and could mean you are able to recover more quickly and move on to your next business idea.

Ralli Partnership Law Solicitors can offer advice and guidance in this area, so call us on 0808 159 9289 to see how we can help.

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