Talbots Buys J. Jill for $517 Million

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The Talbots Inc. said yesterday that it will acquire The J. Jill Group Inc. for $517 million, thwarting a two-year effort by Liz Claiborne Inc. to buy the women's apparel retailer.

Both companies sell to women 35 and older. The purchase helps Talbots expand further into casual clothes after mainly selling tailored apparel such as suits. The boards of directors of Talbots and J. Jill each unanimously approved the transaction. The merger is expected to close in the second quarter and is subject to approval by the stockholders of J. Jill and other customary closing conditions.

"J. Jill's focus on apparel for a sophisticated casual lifestyle, with artistically inspired styles, provides a perfect counterpoint to Talbots' offering of updated modern classics," Arnold B. Zetcher, chairman, president and CEO of Talbots, Hingham, MA, said in a statement.

Talbots' offer trumps a smaller unsolicited takeover bid by Liz Claiborne in November, which spurred J. Jill to put itself up for sale.

In a statement, Liz Claiborne chairman/CEO Paul R. Charron expressed disappointment at being unable to close the deal "at a price that makes sense for our shareholders. However, we are financially disciplined and will not overpay. We remain committed to enhancing our retail presence and to further diversifying our multibrand, multichannel portfolio through both organic growth and strategic acquisitions."

Talbots ended fiscal 2005 with 1,083 stores and revenue of $1.8 billion, while J. Jill finished the year with 200 stores and $450 million in revenue.

Talbots said it would pay for the transaction with amounts drawn under a new $400 million credit facility as well as cash on hand. The transaction is expected to be accretive to Talbots' earnings in fiscal 2007. J. Jill will continue to operate under its name and will retain its headquarters in Quincy, MA, which is seven miles from Talbots' headquarters.

Melissa Campanelli covers postal news, CRM and database marketing for DM News and DMNews.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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