Talbots opens books to Sycamore after spurning buyout bid

HINGHAM, Mass. – Talbots Inc., looking to sell itself, opened its books to Sycamore Partners in a move that could lead to the private equity firm raising its original buyout offer, which was snubbed by the women’s apparel chain last month.

Earlier this month, people familiar with the matter told Reuters that Talbots – which is also looking for a new leader – had started actively soliciting offers and private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital was considering a bid for the company.

Wedbush Securities analyst Betty Chen said Talbots’ confidentiality agreement with Sycamore will greatly reduce the possibility of a bidding war.

In a regulatory filing on Monday, Sycamore said it had signed a confidentiality agreement with Talbots, effective Jan. 27, giving it access to certain private information regarding the company’s business, strategy and prospects.

“It is possible that Talbots has already gone through (its review process) and the remaining party that’s still interested in continuing the dialogue is Sycamore,” Chen said.

In December, Talbots rejected a $212 million buyout proposal from Sycamore, and said it would instead explore strategic alternatives.

When Sycamore made its offer, the private-equity firm had said it might consider increasing its $3 per share bid if it had access to Talbots’ private financial records.