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Limited To Sell Most Of Express

Limited Brands Inc. on Tuesday said it will sell a majority interest in its underperforming Express apparel brand and is considering options for its Limited Stores chain.

Limited Brands, the operator of Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, said it is selling 67 percent of its interest in Express to affiliates of private equity firm Golden Gate Capital for $548 million. The sale is expected to be completed by July.

There is no time frame for what Limited Brands will do with Limited Stores, which company founder Les Wexner used as the starting point for the specialty retailer when he opened his first store in 1963.

Wexner expanded the business to other retail brands in building a chain with 3,700 stores, but over the past six years, Limited has been selling its apparel divisions to focus on more profitable operations: lingerie and personal care products.

The company sold Lane Bryant in 2001 and Lerner New York in 2002, spun off teen retailer Abercrombie & Fitch and girls' retailer Tween Brands Inc. and consolidated its struggling Structure menswear stores under the Express label. In January, the company bought La Senza Corp., an intimate apparel retailer based in Canada, for $628 million.

"Our strategic agenda focuses on growth in the intimate apparel, and personal care and beauty segments of our business," Wexner said in a statement. "The new ownership structure for Express will provide it with the resources, leadership focus and capital to maximize its potential."