Startup Stock Options: Cash acquisition stock payout?

Question from Quora I have shares from exercised options in a company I worked for a few years ago. The company was acquired for a cash. What's next? How do I find out what I get per share, and how do I actually get it? I never received actual stock certificates for my exercised options.

Answer from Dan Walter

I would start by gathering up every bit of paperwork you have on your grant and the exercise transaction.  If your original employer no longer exists, it is likely that many of the historic details also no longer exist.

You should then contact the CFO at the acquiring company.  You may need to explain to someone farther down the ladder that you were a shareholder of "XYZ" stock and that you were looking into how to receive your payment for the acquisition.

If everything runs smoothly you should get a check fairly quickly.

Now, if things are less smooth....

It may be that your shares of common stock were worth little or nothing after the acquisition. WHY?  The acquisition value may have only been enough to pay off the preferred holders or people with earlier payment preferences

It may be that the company isn't sending ANYONE checks yet. WHY? The acquisition may have required an earn-out period, or included some type of warranties that the company was as healthy as the owners claimed.  These periods can delay payments for 3-5 years or more.  At the end , you may not get much (I once received a $40 check for 5 years of very hard work).

It may be that the company doesn't want to pay you anything. WHY? They might not even know that you were a shareholder.  The original company may not have kept great records, or may simply have been busy during the transaction and missed some of the details.  If this is the case, you will need all of that paperwork I mentioned at the start of this answer.  And, expect delays, reviews and more.

Best of luck!  Let us all know how it went.

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