NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Barnes & Noble ( BKS) shares surged more than 17% in premarket trading on Monday after the company announced that it is evaluating the sale of its retail business.

Investors welcomed the news, pushing Barnes & Noble's shares up 17.69% to $15.90.

The company's largest stockholder, Leonard Riggio, is planning to purchase all of Barnes & Noble's retail assets, according to a statement released before market open. Riggio is also Barnes & Noble's founder and chairman.

Barnes & Noble confirmed that its board received notice of Riggio's plan, and has set up a strategic committee of three independent directors to evaluate the proposal and negotiate any transaction.

"There can be no assurance that the review of Mr. Riggio's proposal or the consideration of any transaction will result in a sale of the retail business or in any other transaction," said Barnes & Noble, in the statement.

Barnes & Noble said it won't comment on the proposal unless either a deal is struck or the strategic committee decides to conclude the process. The Wall Street Journal, however, reported that Riggio's move raises the prospect of Barnes & Noble being split in two, with retail stores taken private and separated from the firm's college-store chain and Nook business.

Weighed down by stiff competition from online retailers such as Amazon ( AMZN), Barnes & Noble shares have slumped more than 53% over the last five years.

--Written by James Rogers in New York.

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