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ORANGE COUNTY BRIEFLY

St. John Takes 'Poison'

November 05, 1998

St. John Knits Inc. has adopted a "poison pill" plan designed to thwart any hostile takeover of the Irvine-based maker of upscale women's apparel.

The company said Wednesday it knows of no specific takeover move. But analysts have speculated that St. John may be ripe for a buyout bid because its stock has skidded this year on a spate of disappointing financial results.

The shares tumbled to a 52-week low of $13 on Oct. 8, about six months after trading at a high of $48.31. The stock closed Wednesday at $19.69, off 25 cents.

In September, retail apparel analyst Jennifer Black said the company "was one of the best values I've seen in the marketplace in 20 years in my industry."

Chairman Robert Gray; his wife, Marie; and their daughter, Kelly, who is president, have a stake of about 17.5% in the company.

Under the plan, shareholders will receive rights to purchase the company's stock at half of market value if a person or group acquires more than 15% of the company's stock. The rights will be issued as a dividend to shareholders of record Nov. 18.

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