Salomon v. Salomon Case

Salomon v. Salomon Case

The case of Salomon v. Salomon and Co. Ltd., (1897) A.C.

The above case has clearly established the principle that once a company has been validly constituted under the Companies Act, it becomes a legal person distinct from its members and for this purpose it is immaterial whether any member holds a large or small proportion of the shares, and whether he holds those shares as beneficially or as a mere trustee.

In the case, Salomon had, for some years, carried on a prosperous business as a leather merchant and boot manufacturer.

He formed a limited company consisting of himself, his wife, his daughter and his four sons as the shareholders, all of whom subscribed to 1 share each so that the actual cash paid as capital was £7. Salomon sold his business (which was perfectly solvent at that time), to the Company formed by him for the sum of £38,782.

The company’s nominal capital was £40,000 in £1 shares. In part payment of the purchase money for the business sold to the company, debentures of the amount of £10,000 secured by a floating charge on the company’s assets were issued to Salomon, who also applied for and received an allotment of 20,000 £ 1 fully paid shares.

The remaining amount of £8,782 was paid to Salomon in cash. Salomon was the managing director and two of his sons were other directors.

The company soon ran into difficulties and the debentureholders appointed a receiver and the company went into liquidation.

The total assets of the company amounted to £6050, its liabilities were £10,000 secured by debentures, £8,000 owing to unsecured trade creditors, who claimed the whole of the company’s assets, viz., £6,050, on the ground that, as the company was a mere ‘alias’ or agent for Salomon, they were entitled to payment of their debts in priority to debentures.

They further pleaded that Salomon, as a principal beneficiary, was ultimately responsible for the debts incurred by his agent or trustee on his behalf.

Their Lordships of the House of Lords observed:
“…the company is a different person altogether from the subscribers of the memorandum; and though it may be that after incorporation the business is precisely the same as before, the same persons are managers, and the same hands receive the profits, the company is not, in law, their agent or trustee.

The statute enacts nothing as to the extent or degree of interest, which may, be held by each of the seven or as to the proportion of interest, or influence possessed by one or majority of the shareholders over others.

There is nothing in the Act requiring that the subscribers to the memorandum should be independent or unconnected, or that they or any of them should take a substantial interest in the undertakings, or that they should have a mind or will of their own, or that there should be anything like a balance of power in the constitution of company.”

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