Dart Group Corp. yesterday said it has retained the investment firm of E. F. Hutton & Co. Inc. to act as its financial adviser "in connection with a possible acquisition of Jack Eckerd Corp."
Dart already holds a 5 percent stake in Eckerd, the nation's second-largest drugstore chain, and told the Securities and Exchange Commission two weeks ago that it was considering making a bid for the entire Florida-based company.
In a new SEC filing yesterday, Dart said it had made "no final determination" on its ultimate plans for Eckerd. But Chairman Herbert H. Haft and President Robert M. Haft said they "believe that if Eckerd were to focus more on its retail drug business than on its unrelated businesses, the corporation's value could be enhanced."
Eckerd has run into financial problems in the past few years, partly as a result of its acquisition of the 207-store American Home Video chain, which has consistently lost money. Recently, the drugstore chain has also lost money.
Dart's interest in Eckerd has stimulated trading in Eckerd stock, which climbed $1.50 a share by midday yesterday to $29.25 a share during a day of fairly active trading. The stock closed at $28.75, up $1.
Eckerd Corp. said it knew of no reason for the midday rise in the stock price. "No announcements have been made, and we don't anticipate any," a spokesman said. Dart lawyers indicated the buying was not by Dart because the company has not yet received clearance from federal antitrust officials to buy more stock.
In its SEC filing, Dart said Hutton will recieve a minimum fee of $200,000 and a cash fee of $5 million if an acquisition is completed.
Dart, the Landover holding company of Crown Books and Trak Auto, ran Dart Drug -- the nation's 22nd-largest drugstore chain -- until last year when it sold the 73-store chain to the chain's management for $160 million.