LONDON — A potential winner has emerged in the battle for Alliance Boots.

AB Acquisitions, the takeover vehicle created by private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Stefano Pessina, said Tuesday it had raised its offer for and increased its stake in Alliance Boots. The news caused the consortium comprising Terra Firma, Wellcome Trust and HBOS to bow out of the bidding war for the U.K. pharmacy retailer and pharmaceuticals wholesaler, which began last week.

KKR said Tuesday in a regulatory statement that AB Acquisitions has upped its per-share offer in Alliance Boots to 11.39 pounds, or $22.8 at current exchange. It also has secured a 28.7 percent stake in the company. (Pessina, Alliance Boots' executive deputy chairman and largest shareholder, came to the table with a 15 percent stake and the consortium has amassed an additional 13.6 percent share since March 9.)

On Friday, AB Acquisitions managed to gain the backing of Boots' board for its takeover bid with an offer of 10.90 pounds, or $21.83, per share, but interest from the rival Terra Firma-led consortium drove up the price.

"Boots is a critically important national institution, and we are naturally disappointed not to be able to execute the bold vision we had for the company," Terra Firma said in a regulatory announcement. "However, we are pleased that the shareholders of Alliance Boots have received a significantly higher price due to our interest."

Alliance Boots said in a regulatory statement Tuesday that its board considers the revised offer "to be fair and reasonable and intends to recommend that Alliance Boots shareholders vote in favor of the transaction."

"I will be surprised if [KKR and Pessina] don't get control," said one London-based analyst speaking on condition of anonymity.

KKR and Pessina's takeover bid has stirred controversy since it was announced in March, because Pessina had been instrumental in the formation of Alliance Boots less than a year ago, when Alliance UniChem merged with Boots Group.

Alliance Boots, which owns the Boots the Chemists health and beauty chain, has 3,100 retail outlets and operates its pharmaceutical wholesaling business in 14 countries. — Brid CostelloEstée Lauder Promotes Pair

NEW YORK — The Estée Lauder Cos. has promoted two top executives to new roles with the Estée Lauder brand.

Thia Breen, currently president of Estée Lauder Americas and global business development, has been named president of Estée Lauder Worldwide, giving her global responsibility for the Lauder brand in the 130 countries and territories in which it is sold. All Lauder brand functions — including global marketing, creative, international, launch management, global finance, promotions and education and North American marketing and sales — will fall under Breen's auspices. She will assume her new role on July 1 and will continue to report to John Demsey, group president of the Estée Lauder Cos.

"Thia is the perfect business partner," said Demsey. "She has a 360-degree view of the industry, and brings a unique perspective, as she's done almost every type of beauty job, from being in the field to merchandising and brand-building. She was part of the founding team of Origins and has worked on Clinique, and also was a retailing executive at Federated. She now will have the opportunity to use her smarts in directing marketing around the globe. She's the most outstanding business executive I know, and that is what the Estée Lauder brand deserves."

Breen, who has spent most of her career at the Estée Lau­der Cos., began working for the firm in 1977 as a Clinique account executive in Los Angeles. She was named national sales manager of Aramis in 1985, and in 1992 was the first national sales manager for then-fledgling brand Origins. In 1996, she became senior vice president and national sales manager for Clinique, later becoming senior vice president and general manager of Clinique in 2001. After a brief hiatus, when she was senior vice president of cosmetics for the Federated Merchandising Group, Breen joined the Lauder brand in 2005.

"I'm looking forward to working with our global marketing team to leverage our current strengths and grow emerging markets," said Breen in a phone interview from St. Petersburg, Russia. She added that the brand, currently strongest in Anglo markets, was making great strides in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in China. "The thing that's most important to me is partnering with John Demsey. He's been such a great leader and teacher for me, and he has a very strong history with this brand."Breen's first appointment was Elana Drell Szyfer, currently vice president of global marketing for Prescriptives. Drell Szyfer has been named senior vice president of global marketing for Estée Lauder, replacing Joe Gubernick, who previously led the global marketing efforts at Lauder. Drell Szyfer will report to Breen; Gubernick will be named to a new position shortly, said a Lauder spokeswoman. In her new role, Drell Szyfer will be responsible for global marketing programs for the Lauder brand's skin care, makeup and fragrance categories. "Elana is a seasoned marketer who will help the Lauder brand to continue its momentum in the skin care, makeup and fragrance categories," said Breen. Drell Szyfer, who has also been vice president of skin care, fragrance, sun care, body care and hair care marketing for Lancôme, and executive director, global personal care and fragrance, for Avon, begins her new job on July 1. — Julie Naughton

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