• Investment banks discussing options 6 months after purchase
  • Buyout firm paid $400 million for women's apparel retailer

TowerBrook Capital Partners, the private-equity firm that acquired J.Jill Group six months ago, is already considering an exit of the U.S. women’s apparel retailer, people with knowledge of the matter said.

The buyout firm invited a select number of banks to pitch options for the company, which could lead to an initial public offering as early as the second quarter of 2016, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. TowerBrook may elect to keep the business following the review, one person said.

An exit next year would be a quick turnaround for TowerBrook, which agreed to buy J.Jill in March from Arcapita and Golden Gate Capital and completed the deal in May. The transaction was valued at about $400 million, one of the people said. Private-equity firms typically hold companies for five years to generate the target return of at least 2.5 times their original equity investment.

Among retailers targeting women over 40, J.Jill has outperformed its competitors, according to one of the people familiar with the matter. Brands including Banana Republic, Chico’s and Talbots all have struggled with sluggish sales in recent years. Coldwater Creek filed for bankruptcy in 2014.

J.Jill, based in Quincy, Massachusetts, sells women’s clothing through 250 retail stores, its catalog business and website. The company, led by President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Bennett, was founded in 1959 as a specialty store, the website shows.

A spokeswoman for TowerBrook, based in London and New York, declined to comment. A spokesman for J.Jill didn’t immediately respond to e-mailed requests for comment.

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