L Brands (LB) - Get Report surged nearly 13% on Wednesday following a report that CEO Leslie Wexner, the billionaire behind Victoria's Secret, was considering stepping aside as the company explores strategic alternatives, including a possible sale, of the popular bra and accessories chain.
Citing people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wexner and others inside the company were in ongoing discussions that could result in a full or partial sale of Victoria's Secret, which has some $7 billion in annual sales.
Victoria’s Secret has long dominated the U.S. lingerie market but has struggled in recent years with falling sales - despite strength among its competitors. The company is looking to reach a decision on the potential deal and succession plans in coming weeks, the Journal reported, though there is no guarantee it will reach an agreement.
Wexner, 82, is behind such iconic brands found in hundreds of North American shopping malls, including Abercrombie & Fitch, The Limited and Victoria's Secret – all of which he built into national chains. He is the longest-serving CEO of an S&P 500 company, according to the Journal.
Wexner has run the business since 1963 and took the company public in 1969. Starting as a small store in Columbus, Ohio, Wexner built a retail empire by upending the department store model and developing specialty mall brands.
He is the company's biggest shareholder, with a roughly 17% stake, according to the latest proxy filing. He is also the longest-serving CEO of an S&P 500 company.
Shares of L Brands were up 12.77% at $23.18 in afternoon trading on Wednesday. The company, which also owns the Bath & Body Works and Pink chains, has a market value below $6 billion, down from $29 billion at its peak in 2015.
The stock fell 29% last year.