J. Jill Considers Sale; Board Silent on Liz Claiborne Offer

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The J. Jill Group Inc.'s board of directors said yesterday that it is exploring strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the Quincy, MA-based multichannel merchant of women's apparel.

The news follows a mid-November offer from Liz Claiborne Inc. to acquire all outstanding shares of J. Jill for $366 million. The offer was for $18 per share in cash, which is 40 percent higher than J. Jill's closing price of $12.79 on Nov. 17. The stock closed at $19.33 yesterday.

Claiborne's offer was made directly to the company's board of directors after discussions with its CEO, Gordon Cooke, went nowhere. At the time, the board asked shareholders to take no action so it could have time to review the proposal.

J. Jill's business has faltered this year as the company has repeatedly missed analyst earnings estimates, its direct business has deteriorated and its merchandise mix has missed the mark.

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