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VOL. 126 | NO. 221 | Friday, November 11, 2011

Olan Mills Bought by Competitor Lifetouch

AP

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CHATTANOOGA (AP) – The 75-year-old Lifetouch photography company of Eden Prairie, Minn., purchased 79-year-old competitor Olan Mills and expects to hire nearly all the Chattanooga-based company's 4,000 employees.

The purchase price was not announced, the Chattanooga Times Free Press (http://bit.ly/tKAmSX ) reported Thursday.

The companies are longtime competitors in the church directory and direct sales fields.

Olan Mills was founded in 1932, and Lifetouch was started in 1936.

Employee-owned Lifetouch, with more than 22,000 employees and annual sales of more than $1 billion, expects to hire almost all Olan Mills' 4,000 employees, including about 475 in Chattanooga.

Olan Mills II, the Chattanooga company's longtime chairman, chief executive and the son of its founder, said combining the two businesses is a logical step because the businesses fit well and have similar corporate cultures.

Lifetouch spokesman Kelvin Miller said the company is buying all of Olan Mills, including stand-alone establishments, leased properties and the Chattanooga facilities.

Olan Mills serves 11,000 churches and publishes more than 3 million church directories each year. It also has thousands of studio sites in Kmart, Belk and Macy's locations nationally. In 1999, Olan Mills sold its schools unit to Lifetouch, which has operations in Cleveland, Tenn.

Lifetouch operates in J.C. Penney and Target stores, and the company's church directory business is the industry's largest.

Miller said operations will continue unchanged, at least until after the new year.

He said questions about operations and branding will need additional study before final decisions are made.

The Olan Mills company was started in 1932 by real estate salesman Olan Mills Sr. and his wife, Mary. In the early years, he was the photographer and she did artwork on finished prints, according to the company.

Olan Mills II became the company's chairman in the early 1970s.

Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, www.timesfreepress.com

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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