Jo-Ann Stores being taken private for $1.6 billion

SymbolPriceChangeBAC13.08-0.30Chart for Bank of America Corporation ComBJ45.00-0.20Chart for BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. CommoJAS60.20+14.57Chart for Jo-Ann Stores, Inc. Common StocJCG43.10-0.03Chart for J. Crew Group, Inc. Common Stoc{“s” : “bac,bj,jas,jcg”,”k” : “a00,a50,b00,b60,c10,g00,h00,l10,p20,t10,v00″,”o” : “”,”j” : “”}

NEW YORK (AP) — Fabric and craft store chain Jo-Ann Stores Inc. is being taken private by investment firm Leonard Green Partners LP for about $1.6 billion, the latest in a series of billion-dollar retail buyouts.

The deal is the most recent in a flurry of retail buyouts that have occurred in the past three months. Last month preppy fashion retailer J. Crew Group Inc. agreed to be purchased for $3 billion in a deal that also involves Leonard Green Partners, along with private equity firm TPG Capital.

And in October Gymboree Corp. agreed to be acquired by Bain Capital in a $1.8 billion deal that closed in November.

Private equity buyouts such as these are on the rise after a lull during the recession. Industry experts believe many of the recent deals were for companies that investment firms feel are stable and safe, making them attractive. But they’re also a bet that consumer spending, which has shown signs of life, will continue to rebound.

News of the Jo-Ann deal sent the company’s stock up $14.63, or 32.1 percent, to $60.26 in afternoon trading Thursday. The shares hit a new 52-week high of $60.80 earlier.

The transaction is valued at $61 per share cash, a 34 percent premium to Jo-Ann’s Wednesday closing price of $45.63.

Leonard Green Partners involvement in the Jo-Ann Stores deal likely won’t come as a surprise to many that follow the retail industry. Aside from its offer for Jo-Ann Stores and its involvement in the J. Crew deal, the firm purchased a 9.5 percent stake in warehouse club operator BJ’s Wholesale Club Inc. over the summer and said it would look for ways to improve shareholder value, including potentially taking the company private.

Los Angeles-based Leonard Green Partners also has investments in Neiman Marcus Group, The Container Store, Tourneau, David’s Bridal, Whole Foods Market, and Sports Authority.

Jo-Ann Stores lead director Scott Cowen said in a statement that the Hudson, Ohio-based company was not actively seeking a buyout but felt it was in the best interest of its stockholders, workers and other partners.

J.P. Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and TCW/Crescent Mezzanine are providing financing for the acquisition.

Jo-Ann’s board unanimously approved the deal, but the company is allowed to seek alternative proposals through Feb. 14.

The acquisition is expected to close in the first half of 2011 if the majority of Jo-Ann stockholders approve the transaction.

Jo-Ann Stores has 756 stores in 48 states.

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