Ramius Capital Group LLC has succeeded in obtaining two seats on A. Schulman Inc.’s (Nasdaq: SHLM) board, despite a 100-day plan that Schulman Chief Executive Officer Joseph Gingo previously unveiled to improve profitability and to drive earnings growth. Ramius, a New York-based hedge fund that beneficially owns approximately 7.4 percent of Schulman, has questioned how committed the Akron, Ohio-based supplier of plastic compounds is to reviewing options. Ramius Capital has said the “100 Day Plan is nothing more than another restructuring plan that has no tangible or substantive metrics by which to hold management or the Board accountable.”
Insurance company Penn Treaty American Corp. (NYSE: PTA) has hired Friedman, Billings, Ramsey & Co. to assist in the review of strategic alternatives that could include capital structure review, strategic partnerships, business combination transactions or the sale of certain assets. Penn Treaty also has asked its actuarial consultants to perform a valuation analysis of its long-term care insurance policies and projected new business. Based on a preliminary report, Penn Treaty said it may be necessary to increase its claim reserves, which may involve offsetting or partially offsetting reductions in its active life reserves. The Allentown, Pa.-based company expects its valuation analysis to be completed during the first quarter.
Liz Claiborne Inc. (NYSE: LIZ) is still considering alternatives for its Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy, Kensie, Mac & Jac, and prAna brands. It recently completed the review of four more brands, bringing the total completed inspections to 11. (It expects to complete the review process in the first quarter.) The designer of women’s and men’s apparel and accessories has agreed to sell Laundry By Design and C&C California to Perry Ellis International Inc. (Nasdaq: PERY) for approximately $37 million. Liz Claiborne has decided to discontinue the Sigrid Olsen brand. It will close 54 Sigrid Olsen stores by mid-2008, but may convert about a dozen stores to its Juicy Couture, Kate Spade and other direct brands. The New York-based company expects to incur costs of approximately $17 million to $22 million for Olsen. In addition, Liz Claiborne will retain the Enyce brand.
Zagat Survey LLC, a provider of dining, travel and leisure guides, has initiated a process to explore strategic growth opportunities. The New York-based company, which has hired Goldman, Sachs & Co. as financial advisor, will consider partnerships, joint ventures and a potential sale of the company. Co-Chairs Tim Zagat and Nina Zagat said they are looking at options for more rapid long-term growth, adding: “Coming off 2007 as our best year ever, we see many opportunities ahead driven by the strength of the Zagat brand and the expansion of our user-generated content and distribution vehicles.” Relying heavily on user surveys, Zagat Survey reviews restaurants, hotels, resorts and other product categories in 104 countries.