The Mills Corp. (NYSE:MLS) exit strategy is getting interesting. The scandal-plagued shopping mall operator is being offered a buyout bid of $24 a unit by a group that consists of Simon Property Group (NYSE:SPG) and a hedge fund that has already accumulated an 11% stake in the company.

The market was expecting this. Mills received an offer to be taken out at $21 a pop by Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE:BAM) three weeks ago, but the units had inched past the proposed buyout price. On Friday, Mills closed at $22.15. Investors wouldn't be paying that much if they were sold on the notion of being cashed out at $21 per unit later this year. They were right this time.

As for the new $24 offer, Mr. Market isn't buying it, either. The units bolted past the $24 mark this morning. This doesn't mean that a higher offer will come, but it's a good time to explore the price elasticity of a buyout when gobs of debt are involved.

As of the company's last quarterly SEC filing -- which sadly takes us all the way back to 2005, before the accounting scandals hit -- the company had nearly 65 million units outstanding. That would price the new deal at $1.6 billion, higher than last month's $1.4 billion offer. However, Mills also has roughly $6 billion in debt and preferred liabilities, an amount that remains the same regardless of the buyout price. So the $24 offer may represent a 14% premium to the original $21 buyout bid, but the actual cost of the new deal once you add on the debt is a mere 3% premium.

This does not mean that bidders can aim for the moon in their buyout bid. You can still overpay for Mills, and some analysts felt that even Brookfield was reaching with its $21 offer.

Still, the allure of the company's properties is undeniable. Mills runs 38 shopping malls, but it is probably best known for its gargantuan, high-traffic Mills outlet malls. Deep discounts in an upscale setting? It's a model that has worked well for Mills, as the megamalls are usually one of the top draws in their respective states.

Proven mall landlords can look past the accounting shenanigans and the financial restatements because they know the value of the company's key assets.

So, yes, this bidding war is getting interesting, but don't expect it to go on for too much longer.

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys heading out to his local Sawgrass Mills location, and relishes its gator-shaped layout. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.