An earnout is a type of pricing structure used in mergers and acquisitions that makes some of the purchase price contingent on the performance of the business after the acquisition has taken place. In this sense, the sellers must “earn” this part of the sale price. At its most basic, these provisions serve to reallocate post-sale risk to both the buyer and the seller. When considering a merger or acquisition, it is often best to get counsel from an experienced Silicon Valley merger & acquisition attorney to fully understand the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Earnouts can be employed in a variety of situations to resolve points of contention in the negotiations of a merger or an acquisition. Commonly, they are used when the seller is more optimistic about the future value of the company than the buyer. The earnout clause will allow both parties to reach an agreement that they believe to be fair. They can also be used as a financing mechanism and for the sale of startups with little operational and financial history.