Golden Gate to acquire Express stores

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Reflecting its commitment to its multichannel businesses Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, Limited Brands has signed a definitive agreement to sell a majority interest in its Express brand to Golden Gate Capital for $548 million in cash. The company also said it is exploring strategic alternatives for its Limited Stores business.

The deal for 67 percent ownership of Express is expected to close by July 6.

"Our strategic agenda focuses on growth in the intimate apparel and personal care and beauty segments of our business," Leslie H. Wexner, chairman/CEO of Limited Brands, Columbus, OH, said in a statement.

Mr. Wexner was referring to the company's Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works brands, both of which have strong multichannel capabilities.

In contrast, the Express Web site at www.expressfashion.com is not e-commerce-enabled and The Limited does not appear to have a consumer Web site.

Express will continue to operate under the same name and keep its headquarters in Columbus, OH. Jay Margolis will lead the company as CEO.

While Golden Gate Capital and Sun Capital Partners' offer to acquire Eddie Bauer fell through in February, the San Francisco-based private-investment firm has built a portfolio of women's specialty brands in recent months, many of them with strong catalog heritages including Spiegel, Newport News, Appleseed's, Draper's & Damon's, Norm Thompson and Haband.

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