Takeover Tiger Targets Blair

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NEW YORK – Direct marketer Blair Corp. could be the next retailer to go private through a private-equity acquisition, and it’s the buyer of Spiegel and Haband that’s doing the bidding.

Golden Gate Capital, which acquired Spiegel and Newport News in 2004 and Haband last October, disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it’s offered to acquire Blair for $37.50 a share, or about $144 million. The San Francisco-based GGC and its Appleseed’s Topco subsidiary said they currently own 8.1% of the company’s 3.84 million shares of common stock.

The offer represents a 3.9% premium to Blair’s closing price of $36.10 Thursday. Blair released its response following the close of the markets and its shares rose 94 cents, to $37.04, in after-hours trading.

Craig Johnson, chairman of Blair, acknowledged in a statement that Blair’s board had been in discussions with GGC since receiving a letter from the group on Jan. 3. “Although it is premature to comment further, I do want to emphasize that we will continue to act in the best interest of the company and its stakeholders,” he said.

The timing of the offer could be fortuitous as the firm is currently seeking a new chief executive officer. John Zawacki, who’s been CEO since 1999, is retiring April 1.

At the time of the completion of its Haband acquisition nearly three months ago, Golden Gate managing director Stefan Kaluzny commented in a statement, “With the addition of Haband, we have significantly increased our offerings to the aging baby boomer demographic and are now the largest direct retailer serving this rapidly growing segment of the population. Furthermore, the addition of Haband to our 10 existing titles creates ever greater opportunities for each to benefit from the scale and expertise of the group.”

The company, which houses its direct channel properties in its Catalog Holdings group, said at the time, “While each title will continue to operate independently, there exist significant opportunities for each to benefit from being part of an industry-leading portfolio. Golden Gate continues to seek additional acquisitions of similar brands.”

Few firms mirror the Haband profile as well as Blair, which in fiscal 2006 had sales of $456.6 million, much of it to the same boomer group addressed by Haband.

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