The Big Buy-Out 

Dillard's buys Castner Knott

Dillard's buys Castner Knott

Dillard’s, Inc., the Little Rock-based department-store titan that operates 272 stores across the country—including five in the Nashville area—announced late Monday morning that it will purchase its longtime local rival, Castner Knott, as part of a multibillion-dollar deal.

Under the terms of the agreement, Dillard’s will pay $80 a share, or approximately $2.9 billion cash, for Ohio-based Mercantile Stores Company Inc., which owns and operates Castner Knott and 12 other department-store chains throughout the South and Midwest. In addition, Dillard’s will assume approximately $200 million in debts, bringing the total to $3.14 billion.

Mercantile is the country’s 10th-largest department-store chain. Its holdings—which include 103 fashion-apparel stores and 16 home fashion stores in 17 states—generated some $3 billion in sales during the fiscal year 1997. Dillard’s is the country’s fifth-largest chain, ranking behind such brand names as Sears and J.C. Penney.

As of Monday afternoon, Dillard’s had not announced what it intends to do with competing Castner Knott locations at area malls such as Green Hills, Hickory Hollow, and Cool Springs. However, Bloomberg Online reported that the chain doesn’t intend to operate two stores in the same market, and it may swap or sell as many as a quarter of Mercantile’s stores. The remaining stores will carry the Dillard’s name.

Castner Knott was one of Nashville’s first department stores, opened in 1898 by Charles Castner and William Knott. Its Church Street location, opened in 1906, was an anchor of the downtown retail district until it closed its doors in 1996. The chain has seven stores at Nashville-area malls, including Rivergate and Harding Mall.

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