Liz Claiborne Makes $366 Million Offer for J. Jill

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Liz Claiborne Inc. took its offer to acquire all outstanding shares of The J. Jill Group Inc. directly to the company's board of directors Friday after having been put off by CEO Gordon Cooke twice this year. The deal, which sent J. Jill's share price soaring during trading Friday, would be worth about $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. J. Jill's board of directors asked shareholders Friday to take no action in order to give the board time to review the proposal. If declined, Liz Claiborne chairman/CEO Paul R. Charron raised the possibility of further action.


"It remains our strong preference to work together to negotiate a mutually agreeable transaction. However, we are determined to complete a business combination with J. Jill," Charron wrote in a letter to J. Jill's board.


Liz Claiborne initiated acquisition discussions with J. Jill, Quincy, MA, more than two years ago and made an offer to Cooke to buy the company in March for 30 percent more than its share price. That offer was rejected. Claiborne sweetened the offer earlier this month, but Cooke said the company couldn't begin considering it until next month.


Liz Claiborne is a New York-based designer and wholesaler of women's and men's apparel whose brands include Sigrid Olson and Ellen Tracy. This acquisition would give the company its first significant retail and direct-to-consumer operations.


"We believe a strategic combination with Liz Claiborne will create an opportunity to rejuvenate J. Jill's well-regarded but underperforming brand," Charron wrote. "With a proven track record of growing brands and an unrivaled understanding of the 'young boomer' target market, Liz Claiborne is uniquely positioned to fully leverage J. Jill's distinctive niche in this important market."


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.


Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM News.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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