To London, To Meet The Prints

Can ex-Washington A-lister Georgette Mosbacher find happiness in floral prints and Victorian taffeta? On June 4, the wife of former Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher announced she wants to buy Laura Ashley Holdings, the London-based chain of English country-style clothing and furnishings stores.

Laura Ashley could use help: It has lost money in each of the past four years, dropping $49 million in 1994 alone. And Mosbacher, 48, is something of a turnaround artist: She bought La Prairie, a Swiss cosmetics company, in 1988 and sold it three years later for $45 million, reportedly reaping a hefty profit. She now runs Georgette Mosbacher Enterprises, which sells a cosmetics line called Exclusives on the QVC home shopping network.

Laura Ashley doesn't want to deal, though. Sir Bernard Ashley, the founder's widower and the company's largest shareholder, says he won't sell his 34% stake. A spokesman for PaineWebber, Mosbacher's adviser, says she will do nothing against shareholders' wishes.

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