July 3, 2012, 4:16 PM

Investment bankers make a play for Christopher & Banks

The deal’s value: about $75 million.

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Aria Partners is pressing Christopher & Banks to accept its $75 million offer.

A minority shareholder of specialty women’s apparel retailer Christopher & Banks Corp. thinks the company would be better off under new ownership and has submitted an offer to take over the business.

In an open letter to the board of directors of Christopher & Banks, No. 296 in the 2012 Internet Retailer Top 500, Los Angeles investment banking firm Aria Partners says it is willing to pay $1.75 each for all outstanding shares of Christopher & Banks for a total purchase price of about $75 million.

Aria submitted an offer to acquire the company in May, but Christopher & Banks board rejected the deal, saying the bid was low and not in the best interest of shareholders. Aria is now pressing for a new deal—and making the terms public—because of the retailer’s weakening financial situation.

“In a few short years, the company has been reduced from a peak enterprise value of $600 million, to a mere $35 million today,” Aria partner Edward Latessa writes in a public letter to the Christopher & Banks board. “With the enterprise value down by nearly 95%, isn’t it time for a change? Since making our offer, your business has continued to deteriorate.”

Christopher & Banks, which has been selling online since 2008, has yet to respond publically to the bid from Aria Partners, but the retailer’s sales and other financials did slide in the first quarter.

For the quarter ended April 28, Christopher & Banks didn’t break out web sales but did report:

  • Total sales declined year over year 15.2% to $93.6 million from $110.4 million.
  • Comparable-store sales decreased 15%.
  • Net loss was $13.4 million compared with a net loss of $8.2 million in the first quarter of 2011.
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