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COPY-Ashley Furniture talking with investment banker

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ARCADIA, Wis. (AP) - Ashley Furniture Industries has acknowledged that it's in "exploratory" discussions with investment banking firm Goldman Sachs, but downplays the possibility of a sale.

A statement from the Arcadia company says Goldman Sachs was hired to help the furniture maker evaluate a variety of investment alternatives and opportunities. But, CEO Todd Wanek added that no decisions have been made on a course of action.

Ashley had $4 billion in sales last year, which is twice that of its closest rivals, La-Z-Boy Inc. and Ethan Allen Interiors.

The company employs about 3,000 people in the small western Wisconsin community of Arcadia. About 400 more work at a factory in Whitehall.

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