18B-1307. Transfer or merger of wholesaler's business.

(a) Right of Transfer to Designated Family Member. - An individual's interest in a wholesaler business, including the rights under the franchise agreement with the supplier, may be transferred or assigned to a designated family member. The transfer or assignment shall not be effective until written notice is given to the supplier, but the supplier's consent is not required for the transfer or assignment. "Designated family member" means the wholesaler's spouse, child, grandchild, parent, brother, sister, niece, or nephew. With respect to an incapacitated individual having an ownership interest in a wholesaler, the term "designated family member" also means the person appointed by the court as the conservator of such individual's property. The term also includes the appointed and qualified personal representative and the testamentary trustee of a deceased wholesaler.

(b) Approval of Certain Transfers and Mergers. - Upon notice to and approval by the supplier, an individual owning an interest in a wholesaler may sell, assign or transfer that interest, including the wholesaler's rights under its franchise agreement with the supplier, to any qualified person. Likewise, a wholesaler may merge with another wholesaler in the State, transferring to the new wholesaler entity the merging wholesaler's existing franchise rights. Within 30 days of receipt of notice of the intended sale, assignment, transfer, or merger, the supplier shall request any additional relevant, material information reasonably necessary for deciding whether to approve the transaction. The supplier shall have 30 days from receipt of that information to object to the sale, assignment, transfer, or merger. The supplier may object only if the proposed transferee, or the wholesalership resulting from the merger, fails to meet qualifications and standards that are nondiscriminatory, material, reasonable and consistently applied to North Carolina wholesalers by the supplier. The burden shall be upon the supplier to prove that the proposed transferee or merged wholesaler is not qualified. In determining whether the proposed transferee or merged wholesaler is a qualified person, the supplier shall consider, but is not limited to, the following factors:

(1) Whether the proposed transferee has the financial capacity to purchase the wholesaler or the specified interest upon terms that will not jeopardize the future operation of the business, or whether the new entity resulting from a merger will have such financial capacity to operate successfully, and whether under such ownership the wholesaler will be able to provide financial support necessary to the successful operation of the business, including market spending, capital expenditures, and any equity capitalization or refinancing requirements.

(2) Whether the proposed transferee, or the new entity resulting from a merger, has the proven business experience to hire and maintain a management team to successfully operate the business.

(3) If the proposed transferee does not have experience in the beer business, whether the transferee has other experience to enable it to operate a distributorship successfully and whether the transferee is willing to participate in training provided by the supplier.

(4) Whether the proposed transferee, or a party to the merger, already is a wholesaler for the supplier in a different territory and, if so, whether sufficient time and attention can be devoted to an additional market area.

In determining whether a proposed transferee, or the entity resulting from a merger, is a qualified person, a supplier must consider the business on its own merits and may not designate a specifically identified person as the only purchaser who will be approved. Nothing in this subsection is intended to or should be construed to authorize a supplier to match and reassign to a designee the right to purchase the ownership interest, subject to the designee purchasing the ownership interest. Provided, however, a supplier may match and reassign to a designee the right to purchase the ownership interest, subject to the designee purchasing the ownership interest at the price and on the conditions applicable to the purchase proposed by the transferee, if the total annual gross sales of the supplier's malt beverages sold by the selling wholesaler total no more than five percent (5%) of the selling wholesaler's total annual gross sales of wine and malt beverages in dollars.

(c) Damages. - A supplier who disapproves or prevents a proposed assignment or change of ownership or merger in violation of this section shall be liable to the wholesaler who proposed to make the sale, assignment, transfer, or merger for the difference between the disapproved sale price and a subsequent actual price of a sale of the same assets completed within a reasonable period. If, however, the proposed transfer or sale was to a business associate at a bargain price, the amount of compensation shall be at least the fair market value of the interest proposed to be sold or transferred, minus the proceeds of an actual sale of the interest completed within a reasonable time. (1989, c. 142, s. 1; 2012-4, s. 1; 2018-100, s. 7(a).)