As an M&A advisor, I often find myself between a buyer and seller. It’s my job to facilitate communications, identify and work out issues, and generally keep things moving. The process can get emotional and contentious, so it is also my job to act as a buffer, even taking some of the anger that can develop so it doesn’t spoil the relationship.
But I’ve found that you don’t want to completely keep the buyer and seller apart. At some point there has to be some degree of trust, and often that comes from the buyer and seller meeting alone, and having a good, heart-to-heart discussion.
I’ve also experienced that you don’t want to “lose control” of the deal and have the buyer and seller constantly meeting and talking alone. I once had a buyer and seller fall for each other – and they really hit if off right up until the point that they hated each other. You might say if they hate each other maybe that is the best that the deal die, and some cases that is true. But for the most part, if we can help them through the tough issues (which, surprisingly, usually involve money), they will generally get along after that.
Of course there are times where you may want the buyer and seller to spend some together. I once had a buyer that got drunk at a dinner meeting. Worse, he drank so much I knew if I drank that much I’d be on the floor. It didn’t seem like an especially celebratory dinner that deserved all that alcohol, so I suspected a problem. I asked the seller to spend more time with him and make sure he was comfortable that there wouldn’t be a problem. They got along fine and the buyer bought the business. A year later I was talking to the seller and I asked whether it turned out the guy drank much (The seller stayed on for more than a year). He said, “Oh yeah, he drinks like a fish, but never during the day and he manages the company well”.