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Liz Claiborne

( LIZ) upped the ante in its two-year-old quest for

J. Jill

(JILL) - Get Free Report

Friday, saying it has submitted a written proposal to buy the women's clothes and accessories retailer for $18 a share.

J. Jill closed Thursday at $12.79. In premarket trading Friday, it was up $6.01, or 47%, to $18.80.

Liz Claiborne, whose market cap is more than 14 times that of J. Jill's, said its previous offer of $17 a share was turned down by CEO Gordon Cooke two years ago. "Mr. Cooke flatly rejected the offer even though Liz Claiborne had indicated a willingness to consider a higher price if J. Jill could provide information to justify it," it said.

"We believe this premium offer represents a compelling opportunity to create value for both J. Jill and Liz Claiborne shareholders," Liz Claiborne said. "Beyond providing J. Jill shareholders immediate liquidity at a significant premium, this strategic combination would enable us to rejuvenate J. Jill's well-regarded but underperforming brand.

"As part of the larger Liz Claiborne organization, J. Jill would benefit significantly from our product and merchandising expertise, lower sourcing and logistics costs, and increased marketing and advertising support. There would also be enhanced opportunities for J. Jill employees as part of a larger and stronger company. We call on J. Jill's Board to sit down with us immediately to negotiate a mutually beneficial transaction," Claiborne said.

In a separate release, J. Jill advised shareholders to take no action on the proposal at this time.

"The J. Jill Group's board of directors, consistent with its fiduciary duties and in consultation with its financial and legal advisers, will meet in due course to review and discuss the Liz Claiborne proposal and thereafter will advise shareholders of its position regarding the proposal," the company said.

Shares of Liz Claiborne rose 41 cents, or 1.2%, to $36 early Friday.