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High Net Worth Divorces: Understanding the Intricacies of Valuing Private Equity Holdings

High Asset Divorce

Over recent years, some high-net-worth individuals have emerged from the middle class by playing the market and investing in real estate. However, a typical eight percent return may not suffice for some with loftier financial aspirations. Private equity increases the risk but may also result in higher yields on your invested money.

Also increasing is the complication in valuing private equity holdings when facing a divorce. 

In the unfortunate situation of dissolving a marriage, art, jewelry, homes, property, second homes, and boats can all be valued. Private equity holdings represent complexities to valuation and may have tax consequences that must be considered.

 An experienced family law attorney will advise you on separating these holdings when facing a Florida divorce.

Private Equity Holdings

In a Florida divorce, a divorcing couple follows the Florida equitable distribution guideline. That means assets acquired during the marriage become marital property and are subject to division.

Unlike a community property state where 50/50 division is the standard, equitable division allows the couple to consider their version of what they believe is “equitable.” 

For example, a boat purchased with marital assets may mean more to the husband than the wife, and in turn, she can retain something of similar value purchased with marital assets.

Meanwhile, homes, property, art, jewelry, and second homes all have value, which can be accurately ascertained.  

However, the value of a private equity fund (PE) is often unclear, as it is increasingly an investment choice for ultra-high-net-worth individuals. They promise higher returns, especially over the long term, but PE involves risk and is not easily liquified. Typically, an investment lasts from five to 15 years.

While company shares can be valued, private equity (PE) refers to shares of a company that are not listed on the stock exchange.  

Private equity partnerships may manage and invest in mature companies before they are sold. To value private equity, the company’s future profitability must be considered by looking at the earnings projection, management team, growth projections, and current revenue.

Also, consider the industry: Is it likely to grow in the future?

Valuing Private Equity Holdings

When dividing private equity holdings, valuation should consider publicly traded comparables, company analysis, and discounted cash flow methods. These are standard approaches in private equity valuation:

  • Publicly Traded Comparables (Comps): This involves comparing the target company to similar publicly traded companies using various financial metrics such as price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio, enterprise value-to-EBITDA (EV/EBITDA) ratio, and price-to-sales (P/S) ratio.
  • Company Analysis: This includes a detailed analysis of the target company’s financial performance, growth potential, and market position.
  • Discounted Cash Flow (DCF): This method estimates the present value of the company’s future cash flows, adjusted for risk and time value of money.

Complications in a Florida Divorce

When facing a Florida divorce, several issues can arise:

  • Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements: If one of these agreements exists, asset valuation may be a moot point if the assets are excluded from the division. Florida law allows for prenuptial and postnuptial agreements to dictate the distribution of assets, potentially bypassing the need for valuation.
  • Expectation for Future Investment: Calculating the value of private equity holdings can be challenging due to the expectation of future investments to realize the fund’s total value. Legal and tax advisors may need to analyze both the present and future value of these investments.
  • Volatility: Private equity investments are typically long-term and can be highly volatile. The value of these investments may fluctuate significantly, and there is always a risk of the company failing. Any valuation should consider the potential for losses and the long-term nature of these investments.

Buyout or In-Kind Transfer Options

  • Buyout Option: One spouse may buy out the other’s interest by paying half of the estimated valuation. Taxes and fees should be considered in this process.
  • In-Kind Transfer: This option allows the spouses to split ownership equally, with each spouse responsible for providing additional capital when needed to increase the investment.

Valuation Process

  • Director Consultation: A discussion with a company director may provide insights into the value of the investment and its future prospects.
  • Financial Statements and Tax Returns: These documents are essential for estimating the fair market value of the investment. Normalized financial statements, which adjust for non-recurring or non-economic items, provide a more accurate picture of the company’s earning capacity.

Your Florida Family Law Attorney

Attorney Crystal Collins Spencer understands the complications presented by dividing the assets of a high-net-worth couple in a Florida divorce. She is focused on providing her clients with a sound plan that allows a spouse to move on with their lives, retaining what is most important to them. During a consultation, Ms. Spencer can outline some options for moving forward. Call her Pensacola office at (850) 795-4910 to begin the conversation. 


316 S. Baylen Street, Suite 520
Pensacola, FL 32502
Telephone: 850.912.8080 Fax: 850.912.8028

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