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Lillian cashes out

Rye, NY — Nearly 52 years after its start on its founder's kitchen table in 1951, specialty catalog and online retailer Lillian Vernon has been acquired by Ripplewood Holdings LLC, an investment management firm, for about $60 million, or $7.25 per share in cash.

Lillian Vernon has been struggling in turnaround mode for the past several years, trying to reinvigorate the business.

Ripplewood's industrial partner, ZelnickMedia, will be responsible for the day-to-day operations. The sale represents a 73 percent premium over the $4.20 closing market price of the company's common stock yesterday. Lillian Vernon also simultaneously entered into a consulting agreement with ZelnickMedia for the period between the signing of the merger agreement and the consummation of the transaction, expected to close July 31.

Following the acquisition, Lillian Vernon, founder, current chairman and the largest stockholder, will continue to serve as the company's non-executive chairman as well as the company's spokeswoman. She will no longer run the day-to-day operations of the company, and will own 5 percent of the acquired company after the merger.

Ripplewood manages approximately $4 billion of committed capital through four institutional private equity funds, focusing primarily on investments in the United States and Japan.

Strauss Zelnick, who founded ZelnickMedia, a partnership of media executives, will become chairman of the new company. The partnership owns interests in an array of media enterprises in recorded music, publishing, CD manufacturing, online games and media-related software, both in the United States and Asia.

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