Levi's CEO: Wall Street return marks 'starting line' to greatness

Levi Strauss & Co. CEO Chip Bergh said the iconic jean maker's return to Wall Street is “one more step in the journey to being great.”

“It’s a big milestone for us as a company,” he told FOX Business’ Gerri Willis on Thursday. “And I think it’s a marker... one of the ambitions or aspirations that I established when I joined the company is we wanted to be and be seen as the best apparel company in the world and amongst the best companies in the industry.”

Levi Strauss & Co., which made the first blue jean in 1873, made an initial public offering on Thursday, after a 34-year break. The company's stock, which trades under the ticker symbol LEVI, priced at $22.22 a share on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, where, for the first time since Gap went public in 1976, dress code rules were relaxed. Traders donned denim pants and jackets and many of them said they enjoyed the experience so much they’d like to do it every day.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
LEVI LEVI STRAUSS & CO. 22.22 +0.16 +0.73%

Levi’s was taken private by the founding family in 1985, and it’s the descendants of Levi Strauss, the Haas family, who will receive the bulk of proceeds from the IPO. The stock debuted with a dual-class structure that gives the family a separate class of stock with 10 votes per share, compared to one vote per share for other shareholders. Bergh said he sees this as a “real positive” for the company.

“How many families have been around for 166 years and have stood for the values this company stands for?” he said. “So the family—think of them as long-term shareholders –- 90% of the stock today that’s traded is still owned by the family.”

Bergh said going public isn’t the finish line for the company but a new starting line. He expects the company to focus on building its women’s brands and expanding its reach internationally. The company, founded as a dry goods store in 1856, offers brands like Dockers and Denizen. Bergh expects growth to come from new lines as well as sales in emerging markets.