Talbots (NYSE:TLB) is finally getting rid of what has long been an albatross -- the J. Jill unit it bought several years ago. It's selling most of J. Jill to private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital, which has snapped up retail concepts such as Limited's (NYSE:LTD) former unit Express.

There's not much to write home about for Talbots' shareholders. Golden Gate Capital is paying $75 million for a business for which Talbots originally paid $517 million in 2006, which at the time sounded rich. (Urban Outfitters' (NASDAQ:URBN) shareholders should be breathing a sigh of relief after that company's rumored 2006 buyout of J. Jill never came to pass.) Over the years, it became clear that all this deal really accomplished was to overload Talbots with debt, as it struggled to turn around both its core business and J. Jill.

Unless something has changed in the meantime, the proceeds of the J. Jill sale will go to Talbots' majority stakeholder, Aeon, which has been helping Talbots out of its troubles by extending more and more credit. In an 8-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in February related to an Aeon loan, Talbots disclosed that all proceeds of J. Jill would be handed to Aeon.

Therefore, the sale is a wash for Talbots, although Talbots' shareholders can at least look forward to the idea that management will no longer be distracted by J. Jill's troubles. As I said in November, though, the main takeaway might be thanks for nothing, J. Jill.

As much as investors tend to get excited about mergers and acquisitions, many times these don't go as well as invariably optimistic managements predict. There are plenty of examples. Whole Foods Market's (NASDAQ:WFMI) acquisition of Wild Oats seemed like a good idea at the time but ended up providing a heck of a lot of distraction and debt, another example of a "thanks for nothing" situation. Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) recent announcement that it would spin off AOL strikes me as another anticlimactic end to what was once perceived as a great corporate hookup. eBay's (NASDAQ:EBAY) acquisition of Skype sounded exciting, but later turned out to be fairly pointless, too.

Way back in 2005, when J. Jill was still a stand-alone company, I considered it a rotten trick, not a treat. Talbots thought otherwise and paid -- and overpaid -- the price. Given the rotten economy and Talbots' long-standing issues turning around its business, I hope its investors  don't forget that this retailer still has its work cut out, regardless of this new development.

For further Foolishness:

eBay and Whole Foods Market are Motley Fool Stock Advisor picks. eBay is also an Inside Value recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days.

Alyce Lomax owns shares of Whole Foods Market and Urban Outfitters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.