Document Type



American Law and Economics Review 12(2), pp. 331-337 (2012)


This paper analyzes rights of first refusal and rights of first offer in a multiple-buyer, sequential bargaining setting. A right of first refusal entitles the right-holder to purchase a subject asset on the same terms as those accepted by a third party. A right of first offer requires a seller to first offer the right-holder to buy a subject asset and prohibits the seller from subsequently selling the asset to a third party on better terms than those offered to the right-holder.

We examine when and how such rights yield benefits to, or impose costs, on the right-holder and the seller. We show that a right of first refusal transfers value from other buyers to the right-holder, but may also force the seller to make suboptimal offers. A right of first offer induces the seller to lower his first-period offer, which will tend to increase the net surplus to the seller and right-holder, but also forces the seller to make suboptimal subsequent offers. We find conditions under which it is in the ex ante interest of the seller and the right-holder to contract for a right of first refusal or a right of first offer, respectively.

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