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Teamsters Union 25 Health Servs. & Ins. Plan v. Baiera

Court of Chancery of Delaware, New Castle

July 13, 2015

TEAMSTERS UNION 25 HEALTH SERVICES & INSURANCE PLAN, on behalf of itself and all other similarly situated stockholders of ORBITZ WORLDWIDE, INC., and derivatively on behalf of nominal defendant ORBITZ WORLDWIDE, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
GAVIN BAIERA, MARTIN J. BRAND, MARK S. BRITTON, JEFF CLARKE, KENNETH S. ESTEROW, SCOTT FORBES, ROBERT L. FRIEDMAN, BRADLEY T. GERSTNER, BARNEY HARFORD, KRISTINA M. LESLIE, TRAVELPORT LIMITED, TRAVELPORT LP, TRAVELPORT GLOBAL DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM, B.V., TDS INVESTOR (LUXEMBOURG) S.A.R.L., WALTONVILLE LIMITED, TRAVELPORT HOLDINGS LIMITED, and THE BLACKSTONE GROUP LP, Defendants, and ORBITZ WORLDWIDE, INC., a Delaware corporation, Nominal Defendant

Submitted: April 15, 2015.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Christine S. Azar and Ned Weinberger of LABATON SUCHAROW LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Christopher J. Keller, Eric J. Belfi and Michael W. Stocker of LABATON SUCHAROW LLP, New York, New York; Jeremy Friedman and Spencer Oster of FRIEDMAN OSTER PLLC, New York, New York; Attorneys for Plaintiff.

Anne C. Foster and Christopher H. Lyons of RICHARDS, LAYTON & FINGER P.A., Wilmington, Delaware; Elizabeth Herrington of MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Chicago, Illinois; John A. Sten of MCDERMOTT WILL & EMERY LLP, Boston, Massachusetts; Attorneys for Orbitz Worldwide Inc., and Gavin Baiera, Martin J. Brand, Mark S. Britton, Jeff Clarke, Kenneth S. Esterow, Scott Forbes, Robert L. Friedman, Bradley T. Gerstner, Barney Harford and Kristina M. Leslie.

Martin S. Lessner, Elena C. Norman and Paul J. Loughman of YOUNG CONAWAY STARGATT & TAYLOR, LLP, Wilmington, Delaware; Joseph Serino, Jr., P.C. and Matthew Solum of KIRKLAND & ELLIS, New York, New York; Attorneys for the Travelport Defendants and The Blackstone Group LP.

OPINION

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BOUCHARD, C.

I. INTRODUCTION

In this action, a stockholder of Orbitz Worldwide, Inc. (" Orbitz" or the " Company" ) challenges the fairness of the terms of a five-year services agreement (the " New Agreement" ) the Company entered into in February 2014 with a group of entities affiliated with Travelport Limited (as defined below, " Travelport" ). Plaintiff alleges that Travelport owned approximately 48% of Orbitz and thus controlled the Company when it negotiated and signed the New Agreement.

Plaintiff has asserted four derivative claims challenging the New Agreement. Its two primary claims are that Travelport breached its fiduciary duty as a controlling stockholder by causing the Company to enter into the New Agreement on unfair terms, and that Orbitz's directors breached their fiduciary duties by approving the New Agreement. Plaintiff also asserts two related derivative claims for unjust enrichment and aiding and abetting. Separately, plaintiff asserts a putative class claim for breach of fiduciary duty against Orbitz's directors for allegedly violating the rules of the New York Stock Exchange. Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's claims under Court of Chancery Rule 23.1 for failure to make a demand or to adequately plead demand is excused and under Court of Chancery Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

In this opinion, I conclude that demand is not excused as to any of plaintiff's derivative claims because plaintiff has failed to raise a reasonable doubt that at least half of the directors on Orbitz's board when this action was filed could have exercised impartial business judgment in responding to a demand. In analyzing this issue, I

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apply the Rales test for the reasons explained below, but I would reach the same conclusion under the Aronson test. Significant to the analysis, I reject plaintiff's assertion that demand should be excused simply because an alleged controlling stockholder stood on both sides of the New Agreement. As explained below, this theory is inconsistent with Delaware Supreme Court authority that focuses the test for demand futility exclusively on the ability of a corporation's board of directors to impartially consider a demand to institute litigation on behalf of the corporation--including litigation implicating the interests of a controlling stockholder. For these reasons, and the others explained below, I grant defendants' motions to dismiss.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

A. The Parties

Nominal Defendant Orbitz Worldwide, Inc., a Delaware corporation based in Chicago, Illinois, is an online, travel company. It operates the websites known as Orbitz.com, ebookers, HotelClub, and CheapTickets.

Defendants Travelport Limited, Travelport LP, Travelport Global Distribution System, B.V., TDS Investor (Luxembourg) S.a.r.l., Waltonville Limited, and Travelport Holdings Limited (collectively, " Travelport" or the " Travelport Defendants" ) provide transaction processing services to travel companies, including Orbitz. Each of the Travelport Defendants " is a beneficial owner of Orbitz common stock or a party to" the New Agreement.[2]

Defendant The Blackstone Group LP (" Blackstone" ) is an investment and advisory firm. Until an April 2013 refinancing, Blackstone held a majority interest in Travelport. As of February 4, 2014, the date of the New Agreement, Blackstone owned approximately 13% of Travelport. As of November 18, 2014, the date of the Complaint, Blackstone owned approximately 7% of Travelport.[3]

Defendants Martin J. Brand, Mark S. Britton, Jeff Clarke, Kenneth S. Esterow, Scott Forbes, Robert L. Friedman, Bradley T. Gerstner, Barney Harford, and Kristina Leslie and non-party Jaynie Studenmund were the ten members of Orbitz's board of directors when the Company entered into the New Agreement on February 4, 2014 (collectively, the " Agreement Board" ). At the time, Britton, Leslie, and Studenmund were the three members of Orbitz's Audit Committee. On February 7, 2014, Studenmund resigned from the Orbitz board. Her former board seat remained vacant when the Complaint was filed.

Brand, Britton, Clarke, Esterow, Forbes, Friedman, Gerstner, Harford, and Leslie were the nine members of Orbitz's board of directors when Plaintiff initiated this action on April 3, 2014 (the " Demand Board" ). On April 10, 2014, Clarke resigned as an Orbitz director, and the board

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appointed Defendant Gavin Baiera to fill the vacancy created by that resignation.

Baiera, Brand, Britton, Esterow, Forbes, Friedman, Gerstner, Harford, and Leslie are currently the nine members of Orbitz's board of directors (collectively, the " Current Board" ). The table below reflects the composition of the Orbitz board at the relevant times.

Composition of the Orbitz Board of Directors

Agreement Board

Demand Board

Current Board

Baiera

Brand

Brand

Brand

Britton

Britton

Britton

Clarke

Clarke

Esterow

Esterow

Esterow

Forbes

Forbes

Forbes

Friedman

Friedman

Friedman

Gerstner

Gerstner

Gerstner

Harford

Harford

Harford

Leslie

Leslie

Leslie

Studenmund

Plaintiff alleges that at least five of the nine members of the Demand Board--Brand, Clarke, Esterow, Friedman, and Harford--lack independence from Travelport and Blackstone and/or are interested in the New Agreement for the following reasons:

o Brand, who became an Orbitz director in March 2010, is a Managing Director in the Private Equity Group of Blackstone and was formerly a director of Travelport Limited;
o Clarke, who became an Orbitz director in June 2007, was formerly Chairman of the board of Travelport Limited from February 2012 to April 2013, Executive Chairman of Travelport Limited from June 2011 to February 2012, and President and CEO of Travelport Limited from May 2006 to May 2011;
o Esterow, who became an Orbitz director in August 2011, was formerly the President and CEO of Travelport Limited's Gullivers Travel Associates business from January 2007 to May 2011, and he was an employee of Travelport and ...

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