• Kyodo News

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Major retailer Aeon Co. said Tuesday its U.S. clothing affiliate, Talbots Inc., will sell its J. Jill brand unit for about $75 million to an affiliate of a U.S. equity investment firm.

Under the agreement, 204 of the existing 279 J. Jill brand shops and related assets will be handed over to Jill Acquisition LLC, an affiliate of U.S. equity investment firm Golden Gate Capital. The remaining 75 stores are expected to be closed.

“This is a significant strategic step forward for Talbots as it enables us to focus our time, resources and attention exclusively on rejuvenating our core Talbots brand and return to profitable growth,” Talbots President and Chief Executive Officer Trudy Sullivan said in a statement.

Talbots purchased the J. Jill brand in 2006 for approximately ¥60 billion but decided to sell it due to its poor earnings performance amid sluggish U.S. consumption.

Aeon reported its first red ink in seven years for the 2008 business year that ended in February partly due to special losses linked to Talbots.

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