Tarrant Apparel Group, a Los Angeles company that designs and makes private label casual apparel, said late Thursday it signed a merger agreement with a company formed by two of its founders. The cash deal is valued at $15.2 million.

The purchaser, a subsidiary of Sunrise Acquisition Company LLC, is owned by company Chairman Gerard Guez, who is serving as interim chief executive, and Vice Chairman Todd Kay, the company said.

Guez is the company's largest shareholder, controlling 33 percent of shares. Kay is the third largest shareholder, with a 9 percent stake. The partners told the board last April that they intended to acquire the company and take it private. Under the terms of the merger agreement, all outstanding shares of Tarrant Apparel Group not already owned by Guez and Kay will be acquired for 85 cents per share, a 130 percent premium on the stock's Wednesday closing price.

The deal was negotiated on behalf of the company by a special committee of independent directors, which hired outside financial advisors, the company said. The board, minus Guez and Kay, unanimously approved the merger agreement.

Tarrant Apparel manufactures clothing for national chains, such as Macy's and Wal-Mart and produces garments for its own brand, American Rag Cie. It struggled to maintain its stock price even before the economic downturn and has been threatened with delisting from the Nasdaq.

The company has roughly 150 employees, according to a company spokesman 72 of them based in Los Angeles, 26 in New York City and 120 in Asia.

Prior to the announcement, the company's shares closed down 3 cents, or 7.5 percent, to 37 cents on the Nasdaq.

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