Sun Capital, Golden Gate grab Eddie Bauer

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Investment firms Sun Capital Partners Inc. and Golden Gate Capital agreed to acquire Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. for $9.25 per share in cash, or about $614 million.

Eddie Bauer's board of directors approved the deal, which is to close in first-quarter 2007 after stockholder approval.

In May, Eddie Bauer, Redmond, WA, said that it would explore strategic alternatives including the sale of the company. The merchant emerged from Spiegel Inc.'s Chapter 11 reorganization in June 2005 and became an independent company for the first time in 35 years.

"Eddie Bauer has probably withstood more problems, redirections, re-strategies, re-managements and rearrangements than any other direct marketing company, but it remains a quality property," said Don Libey, president of consultancy Libey Inc., Des Moines, IA.

Golden Gate should provide the stability Eddie Bauer needs, he said.

The deal with Sun Capital, Boca Raton, FL, and Golden Gate, San Francisco, represents a 12 percent premium to the prior four weeks' average closing price of Eddie Bauer's common stock.

Sun Capital and Golden Gate are active in retail and consumer products. Golden Gate said Nov. 10 that it had acquired Venus Swimwear, WinterSilks and Venus Manufacturing. The Venus Swimwear deal follows Golden Gate's September acquisition of Carabella, another swimwear title.

The WinterSilks deal is the latest in a string of acquisitions of baby-boomer-oriented titles by Golden Gate's portfolio company, Catalog Holdings Inc., including Appleseed's in November 2005; Norm Thompson, Solutions and Sahalie in March 2006; and Haband in October 2006.

Mr. Libey said such a roll-up of apparel companies offered efficiencies, though the issue is integration.

"If the systems can talk, the efficiencies can be enormous; if they can't talk, the disintegration can be lethal," he said. "My bet is they will be successful."

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