Sallie Mae's stock price soared Wednesday after its chief executive announced his imminent departure, quelling a long dispute over the future of the government-sponsored enterprise.

Lawrence A. Hough, who has headed Sallie Mae since 1990, will step down after privatization of the company. Wall Street's reaction was ebullient: The shares rose $6.125 to close at $126.625 in Wednesday's trading, a 5.1% gain.

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