Sears considering bid for J. Crew

By Reuters
Posted Jan. 5 at 12:50 p.m.

Sears Holdings Corp. and Urban Outfitters Inc. are examining the financial books of J. Crew Group Inc. in consideration of possible bids for the clothing retailer, a source familiar with the situation said Wednesday.

J. Crew, which also operates a website and catalog, has already agreed to be acquired by TPG Capital LP and Leonard Green & Partners LP for $2.86 billion. It can solicit other bids until Jan. 15.

Neither Sears nor Urban Outfitters has indicated whether it would submit a bid to compete with TPG and Leonard Green’s $43.50 per share offer, the source said.

The two companies may merely be taking the opportunity to examine a rival’s finances, the source added.

At least two other private equity firms are also looking at J Crew’s financial records, the source said.

J Crew and Urban Outfitters declined to comment. Sears could not be immediately reached for a comment.

J Crew shares added 4 percent, or $1.73, to $44.79 in midday trading.

J Crew faces a slew of lawsuits from shareholders protesting the potential sale price and accusing J Crew Chairman and Chief Executive Millard Drexler of breaching his fiduciary duties to investors.

Drexler weighed a sale of the clothing retailer for nearly seven weeks before informing the board of discussions with suitors, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Urban Outfitters’ more upscale Anthropologie chain is a rival to J Crew, which Michelle Obama and her daughters helped popularize, and targets professional women. The company, which also operates the namesake Urban Outfitters chain geared to teens and hipsters in their 20s, had sales of about $1.9 billion in fiscal 2010 and operates over 300 stores, mostly based in the United States.

Sears is best known as a retailer of home appliances, but the company is trying to improve its apparel offerings and it named a new president of that unit Tuesday. The company owns the Lands’ End label, which operates a successful catalog.

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