January 8, 2014, 10:52 AM

Barnes & Noble promotes another digital exec to CEO

Michael Huseby, who ran Nook for the Top 500 chain, takes over for former e-commerce leader William Lynch, who resigned last year.

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Michael Huseby

Barnes & Noble Inc. has turned again to its digital bench for new leadership. The bookseller chain, No. 27 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, said today that Michael P. Huseby has taken over as CEO.

Barnes & Noble hired him in 2012 as its chief financial officer. In July 2013, he became president of Barnes & Noble and CEO of its tablet-centric Nook Media unit after CEO William Lynch—who oversaw the chain’s e-commerce operations until winning promotion to CEO in 2010—resigned his job after several quarters of weak financial reports. Since then, a team of executives has run the retail chain; now Huseby assumes the top spot.

“Since the day he joined the company, Mike has proven to be an excellent financial and business executive, whose leadership skills have earned the respect of the entire organization, as well as our board of directors,” says chairman Leonard Riggio. “Although a relative newcomer to the retail book business, he has quickly developed a comprehensive understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges the company faces, and he has a vision for the future in which I am in complete accord. Mike also has a passion for bookselling, which makes him a perfect fit for this job.”

Before working for Barnes & Noble, Huseby was executive vice president and chief financial officer of telecommunications and media firm Cablevision Systems Corp.

According to the most recent Top 500 Guide, web sales at Barnes & Noble increased 54.3% year over year in 2012 to an Internet Retailer-estimated $1.324 billion. In November, the retail chain reported that total revenue decreased by 8% year over year in the second quarter of fiscal 2014, to $1.73 billion. Sales of digital content, such as e-books and e-magazines sold through the retailer’s Nook devices and apps, decreased 21.2% year over year to $57.3 million.

Huseby’s hiring could signal cost cutting, says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at research and advisory firm RSR Research LLC.

“What jumps out at me is that this fellow has a background as a CFO.  This is not always my favorite thing,” she says. “That means, to me at least, that a lot of his duties are going to be around cost-cutting and getting profitability up.  I think it’s a good idea to have one fellow in charge of the whole shebang. Hopefully, he’ll get rid of redundancies across divisions and tighten up the ship.”

She adds that price matching with the North American leader of e-retailer could be in the chain’s future too.

“I did some price checking a couple of weeks ago, and Amazon was cheaper on two e-books I was looking for,” she says. “I think he’s going to have to match Amazon’s prices and find a way to make that business model work.”

 

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