Opening a new and unexpected chapter in the life of Barnes & Noble Inc., Liberty Media Corp. last month altered an earlier proposal to buy the bookseller outright and instead agreed to pay $204 million for a 17% share of the retailer.
Liberty Media, which owns and operates online and TV retailer QVC Corp. and several other growing e-commerce brands, covets Barnes & Noble's position in digital content that the retailer has built around its Nook electronic book reader, says Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei. "We are excited about Barnes & Noble's prospects as the leading bookseller in the U.S. and its growth opportunities in the digital world," he says.
Liberty's investment follows a period of strong web sales for Barnes & Noble. For the 2011 fiscal year ended April 30, Barnes & Noble reported a 49.8% year-over-year rise in e-commerce sales to $858.1 million from $572.7 million, as sales at bricks-and-mortar sales other than college book stores dipped by 0.9% to $4.36 billion from $4.40 billion. Sales at the company's college book stores more than doubled to $1.78 billion from $833.6 million, helping to drive up total sales by more than 20% to $6.99 billion from $5.81 billion. m