Third J. Alexander’s suitor returns with highest bid yet

Latest offer almost 10% above Fidelity National's

Three’s company again in the battle to buy restaurant chain J. Alexander’s.

The board of the West End-based company is still recommending that shareholders accept the $13 per share being offered by Florida-based title insurer Fidelity National Financial. But since Sunday, they have two competing bids for $14 or more per share.

The latest offer — and best yet — comes from so-called Party F, one of the two companies who stepped forward after J. Alexander’s and Fidelity National announced their $72 million sale plan in late June. Identified as a strategic party — as opposed to an investment firm — Party F had in late July raised its bid to $13, but was matched by Fidelity National. Now the company says it will pay J. Alexander’s $14.25 per share. (Another company has offered $14 per share.)

In a regulatory filing, J. Alexander’s officials say they can’t assure that a deal will be finalized at that higher price, which is almost 10 percent higher than what Fidelity National is offering. But the latest move ratchets up the pressure on Fidelity National to raise its bid as it did a month ago.

Investors are betting that’s what will happen: They bid J. Alexander’s shares (Ticker: JAX) up almost 5 percent to $14.20 in afternoon trading. The stock hasn’t changed hands at that level since the summer of 2007.

A call to Fidelity National executives was not returned prior to publication of this story.