Wisconsin-based department store chain



agreed to be taken private in a $715 million leveraged buyout led by Goldner Hawn.

The price is $24 a share in cash. ShopKo shares closed Thursday at $23.03, up about 23% on the year. The 52-week high is $23.27. Commitments for debt financing have been provided by Bank of America and an affiliate.

Goldner Hawn, a Minneapolis-based private equity firm, will also assume $300 million of ShopKo debt as part of the takeover.

Two directors, John Turner and Steve Watson, will be co-chairmen of the company after the deal is completed. The current CEO, Sam Duncan, will leave the company. Its chairman, Jack Eugster, resigned from that post but will remain as acting president and CEO until a permanent chief executive is found.

ShopKo is expected to earn $1.56 a share this year and $1.71 a share next year, according to two analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the second fiscal quarter of 2005.