I'm about to enter a partnership with someone. The original proposal was to be 50/50 partners, but now he wants to split the company into voting and non-voting shares. He would be effectively issue 100 voting and 100 non-voting shares. He would like to inject $100,000 of his own money to help jump-start the business. In the end he would own 100 non-voting and 50 voting shares, leaving me with the remaining 50 voting shares, and effectively 25% equity. I have also indicated that over time (if possible), I would like the right to buy back the other 25% equity to fully even it out. How can I protect myself in this scenario?
The first matter for you to conclude is to agree the terms of a shareholder agreement between the two founders. This shareholders agreement should govern the management of all significant governance matters. Without this you will subject to the constitution documents of the company and local company company law. This is a standard type of agreement that any decent corporate lawyer will be able to advise you on.
As the voting shares are held equally, then no major changes will be able to be made without both founders agreeing to the changes. The non-voting shares (assuming all other terms are the same) will have equal rights to financial returns (dividends and liquidation rights), but will not be able to participate in voting issues. In simple terms, you will have an equal say in the running of the company with your co-founder, but will receive 25% of the returns, while they receive 75%.