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Ablest to be part of merger

The deal usurps an earlier plan for the staffing company to be taken private.

By Tom Zucco, Times Staff Writer
Published April 5, 2007


Two months after top Ablest Inc. executives backed a plan to take the Tampa staffing company private, the firm said Wednesday it has instead agreed to be acquired by Koosharem Corp. for a substantially higher price.

Koosharem's offer of about $32.5-million, or $11 a share in cash, is a nearly 50 percent improvement over the proposal in January from the Burton Partnership, a group that included Ablest chairman Charles Heist III and president and chief executive Kurt R. Moore. That offer was for $22-million, or $7.50 a share.

Ablest's board approved the merger, the company said in a statement, and recommended its shareholders do the same. Ablest has 15 days to find a better deal, but "there is no assurance that the solicitation of proposals will result in an alternative transaction," the statement reads.

Heist and members of his family have agreed to vote the 50.4 percent of Ablest stock they control in favor of Koosharem's deal.

The transaction, not subject to financing conditions, is expected to close by the end of June.

The announcement pushed Ablest stock up 45 percent Wednesday, to close at $10.75 a share, the largest increase in nearly two years.

Koosharem Corp., based in Santa Barbara, Calif., is the holding company of Select Remedy, a professional staffing company with 280 offices in North America. Select Remedy was created when Koosharem acquired Remedy Temp Inc. in 2006.

Founded in 1954, Ablest becomes the second bay area publicly traded company in a week to announce it is being acquired. Monday, Global Imaging Systems Inc., a Tampa office equipment company, said it has a deal to be acquired by Xerox Corp. for $1.5-billion.

Tom Zucco can be reached at or 727 893-8247.

[Last modified April 4, 2007, 23:15:26]

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