Barnes & Noble Faces New Woes as Liberty Media Cuts Stake in Book Chain from 17% to 2%

A Barnes & Noble bookstore in Orlando, FL. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)
A Barnes & Noble bookstore in Orlando, FL. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

Three years after bookseller Borders filed for bankruptcy, is another bookstore staple getting closer to the chopping block? Barnes & Noble , the largest bookseller in the U.S., isn’t a goner just yet, but the development it revealed Thursday morning is not pretty: investor Liberty Media , which once considered buying Barnes & Noble for $1 billion, is slashing its stake and privately selling a majority of its investment in the struggling book chain.

Barnes & Noble and Liberty Media jointly announced Thursday morning that Liberty Media has cut its 17% stake in the bookstore to a roughly 2% holding. The billionaire-backed Liberty — its chairman is billionaire John Malone – acquired its Barnes & Noble stake in 2011 for a little more than $200 million. Though Liberty tried to couch its stake-slashing by saying that it will retain 10% of that initial investment, that figure works out to a stake worth a mere 1.7% of the company.

“By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives,” Greg Maffei, Liberty’s president and CEO, said in a statement Thursday morning.

The sale of Liberty’s stake, which is expected to close April 8, means that Liberty loses the right to elect two preferred stock directors, so Maffei will cease to serve on Barnes & Noble’s board as of April 8 but Mark Carleton, Liberty’s senior vice president, has been re-elected to the board.

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SOURCE: Maggie McGrath 

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