On The Block

Investment Technology Group (NYSE:ITG) may get pushed onto the auction block by hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co. The New York hedge fund recently increased its stake in the brokerage firm to 6.2 percent, up from about 2.7 percent, and has reportedly urged it to begin considering strategic alternatives, including a sale. For the first quarter ended March 31, 2007, Investment Technology Group reported net income of $24.7 million, down from $26.4 million for the same period the year before. Revenue came in at $168.9 million for the first three months of 2007, up from $146.2 million for that period in 2006. Earlier this month, Investment Technology Group announced it had reached an agreement to acquire RedSky Financial, a privately-held Chicago-based broker-dealer.

In similar news, investment firm Karsch Capital Management, which has been asking CSK Auto Corp. (NYSE: CAO) to put itself on the block since last October, sent a letter to the automotive parts and accessories retailer earlier this month reiterating its stance. Karsch Capital holds 9.32 percent of the company’s outstanding common stock. The move came just after Phoenix, Ariz.-based CSK announced that Lawrence Mondry will take over as president and CEO in early July, replacing the retiring Maynard Jenkins. According to the company’s latest 10-K filing, which covers fiscal 2005 ended Jan. 29, 2006, CSK generated net sales of $1.65 billion, compared to $1.60 billion in fiscal 2004. The company operates under brand names Checker Auto Parts, Kragen Auto Parts, Murray’s, and Schuck’s Auto Supply.

Vintage Wine Trust, a San Rafael, Calif.-based REIT that invests in the wine industry, has hired Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. to assist it in exploring a potential sale or merger of the company. When first formed, the two-year-old REIT originally planned to take itself public via an IPO, but slow growth has forced it to delay those plans. As of June 2007, Vintage Wine Trust had acquired $143 million worth of vineyards and wineries, which have been leased back to the sellers or to third-parties. Vintage Wine Trust owns 10 properties, consisting of two winery/vineyard facilities and eight vineyards totaling 6,083 acres. All of the properties are located in California.

Infant and juvenile gift supplier Russ Berrie & Co. Inc. (NYSE:RUS) said it received an unsolicited buyout offer for $18 per share. Though it declined the bid and did not disclose the suitor, the Oakland, N.J., company did note that it had already been exploring the possible sale of its gift division and has received “indications of interest from several prospective acquirers.” Russ Berrie has hired Sagent Advisors to explore “all strategic alternatives,” including selling a division or the entire company. For the first quarter ended March 31, 2007, the company reported net sales of $75 million, a tad short of the $77 million it reported in the same period in 2006.