Jan 22, 2012
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Talbots puts itself on the block

Jan 22, 2012

Women's apparel chain Talbots Inc (TLB.N) has started an auction to sell itself, two people familiar with the matter said on Friday, and its shares rose as much as 22 percent.

Talbots' advisor Perella Weinberg has started actively soliciting bids for the company as part of its exploration of strategic alternatives after Talbots turned down a $212 million buyout proposal from Sycamore Partners in December, the sources said. Sycamore, which already owns 9.9 percent of Talbots, had offered $3.00 per share, a $1.44 premium over Talbot's $1.56 share price at the time the offer was made.

On Friday, Talbots shares closed up 18.6 percent at $3.19 after reaching $3.29 earlier in the day.

Sycamore is headed by Stefan Kaluzny, a former managing director at Golden Gate Capital, another private equity firm that the sources said was mulling a bid for Talbots. Golden Gate bought the J. Jill brand from Talbots in 2009 for $75 million, a fraction of the $517 million Talbots had paid to buy it three years earlier.

"A mix of strategic and private equity buyers have been approached. The data room will open in the next few days followed by a two-stage auction. They should have an outcome by the end of the second quarter," one of the sources said.

Talbots did not respond to a request for comment but said in a statement that it would not comment on its share price. Golden Gate declined to comment.

Clothing retailers have proven to be tricky buys for private equity firms. J Crew Group Inc agreed to a $3 billion takeover offer from TPG Capital and Leonard Green & Partners in 2010 before the board was informed, leading to litigation and a shareholder class action settlement.

Talbots has been looking for a new chief executive to replace Trudy Sullivan, who unsuccessfully tried to revive the chain with new store formats, cost cuts and by chasing younger shoppers.

Sycamore was hoping to capture synergies in Talbots after it bought 51 percent of Limited Brands Inc's (LTD.N) apparel sourcing division, Mast Global Fashions, in November.

(Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis in New York; Additional reporting by Ranjita Ganesan and Mihir Dalal in Bangalore; Editing by Roshni Menon)

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