"Parties to a transaction sometimes intentionally create a letter of intent as an expression of what they intend to agree upon should certain circumstances arise... [whatever happens], the document will not be binding and thus not enforceable until those circumstances arise. Thus, the letter of intent is essentially a legally worthless document. It is not clear to me the reason any party would ever bother to create such a document and yet I have seen it used on many occasions. If parties to a transaction intend to bind each other, then they should create a binding contract, not a letter of intent. If the parties to a transaction do not intend to bind each other, then why bother creating a document that is not binding?
A famous example often cited by legal scholars, was a case involving the Getty Oil and Pennzoil in very early 1984. The parties had signed a "Memorandum of Agreement" _ viewed by the parties at the time as a Letter of Intent _ for a complex investment and stock transaction, whereby Pennzoil would purchase Getty Oil stock, and set forth general terms of the investment that had been reached in conversations, and also stipulated that the Memorandum was subject to the approval of the Board of Getty Oil. The Board of Getty Oil sooner approved the transaction and both parties announced on January 4, 1984 in a press release, an "agreement in principle" to the terms of the Memorandum. The final agreements for the merging of Texaco and Getty Oil were signed by the parties on January 6 _ 8.