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Ernest W. Williams

Member, Louisville

Ernie is a Member in Stoll Keenon Ogden’s Louisville office and had been with the firm for more than 40 years. He is Chair of the Mergers & Acquisitions practice and is part of the Securities & Corporate Governance practice group.

Working with clients in Kentucky and throughout the U.S., Ernie focuses on business acquisitions and dispositions, entity structures, and distribution and supply agreements. A highlight of his decades-long career is his contribution in structuring a $238-million transaction involving the sale of California-based wine brands by a major wine and spirits corporation.

For his many legal accomplishments, Ernie is AV Preeminent® Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, and he has been listed in Best Lawyers in America® for nearly 20 consecutive years.

Active in the professional community, Ernie has lectured for the Louisville Bar Association and Lorman Education Services. He also serves on the board of directors for Kentucky Opera and Childplace Inc.

Mergers & Acquisitions: Ernie is the leader of a skilled team of attorneys who represent buyers and sellers of businesses in acquisitions and dispositions, mergers and joint ventures, entity formation and structuring, and transactions between business owners.

An example of Ernie’s leadership is this practice group is his involvement in regional roll-up transactions. With this strategy, he helps service businesses sell their practices, while retaining a portion of the sale price in the form of equity in the acquirer’s business.

The businesses Ernie has helped through roll-ups span from medical companies to investment firms. His work includes the negotiation of initial letters of intent, support in providing due diligence materials to the acquirer, review and negotiation of acquisition agreements, review of the acquirer’s organizational documents, review of employment and noncompetition agreements, assistance with third-party consents and closing of transactions.

Securities & Corporate Governance: Stocks are often part of business acquisitions, and Ernie advises clients on structuring deals that include both privately issued and publicly registered securities offerings.

Business Services: From locally owned companies to international corporations, Ernie represents clients involved in a broad range of business activities, particularly in the areas of mergers and acquisitions.

Business Owner Disputes: Ernie regularly advises business owners in navigating disputes relating to dissenters’ rights actions, directors’ and officers’ liabilities, business succession, and a range of other concerns.

Alcohol & Hospitality: Addressing the unique challenges facing the distilling industry is another area where Ernie has substantial expertise. Along with negotiations and documentation associated with mergers and acquisitions, Ernie assists beverage alcohol clients with regulatory compliance licensing issues and provides representation regarding production, warehousing, advertising, labeling and packaging.

 

Education
Harvard University
1975, J.D.
Murray State University
1972, B.S., magna cum laude
Admissions
Kentucky
U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky
U.S. District Court, Western District of Kentucky

Recognition

  • AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®
  • Best Lawyers in America®, 2001-present
  • Kentucky Super Lawyers®, 2011-present
  • Chambers USA, Leading Lawyer for Business, Corporate/M&A, 2014-2017
  • Louisville Magazine Top Lawyer, International Trade Law, Securities Law, 2012-2014
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Affiliations

  • Louisville Bar Association
  • Kentucky Bar Association
  • Financial Executives International, Louisville Chapter
  • Kentucky Opera, Board of Directors, Secretary, Executive Committee
  • Childplace, Inc., Chairman, Board of Directors
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Work Highlights

Ending a Derivative Action by a Merger and Dissenter Rights

When a small minority of the shareholders prevailed in derivative action, SKO was brought in to advise the majority owners. A merger transaction both ended the derivative action by depriving the minority of standing and provided a means of redeeming their shares so similar suits may not be brought in the future. The minority shareholders initiated a dissenter rights action, which was resolved on a valuation favorable to our client.

Defending Against a Threatened Change in Control

When a dissident group of shareholders threatened to alter the structure of the board and thereby take control of the corporation, SKO advised the incumbent board on how to structure an asset sale to a related company that preserved existing relationships.

Sale of California-based Wine Business

Represented a major wine and spirits corporation in the sale of its Hopland, California-based wine brands to another business based in Santiago, Chile. The $238 million transaction was structured as a stock purchase.

View All Work Highlights
News Publications Seminars
"Buying and Selling a Business in Kentucky," Lorman Education ServicesSep. 2000 and Jul. 2002
"Update on Forming, Acquiring and Merging Companies," Kentucky Bar Association Corporate House Counsel SeminarApr. 2006
"Lawyers' Responses to Auditors' Requests for Information," Kentucky Bar Association Bank Counsel SeminarOct. 1993
"Legal Opinion Liability Responses to Auditors' Request for Information," Louisville Bar AssociationSep. 2001