We hear this question a lot and the answer depends on the wording of the non-compete contract.
If the non-compete contract provides that the contract is “binding upon the parties’ successors and assigns,” it may be enforceable by the new owners of your old company. If the non-compete contract does not provide that it is binding upon the parties’ successors and assigns, the employee may have a good argument that he/she is free to compete as they wish without any concern over the contract. Even if the non-compete contract contains language that it is binding upon successors and assigns, some courts will not enforce the agreement against the employee if the court finds the contract was for “personal services.”
If your company is bought out, or if it merges with another company, you may have the ability to compete with the new or merged company without any legal ramifications. Talk with an experienced attorney about your options.