April 4, 2014, 12:14 PM

Liberty Media drastically reduces its ownership stake in Barnes & Noble

Liberty Media is selling 90% of its shares in the book chain retailer. It invested $204 million in Barnes & Noble in 2011.

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Liberty Media Corp., the parent company of QVC.com, Backcountry.com and other e-retailers, is selling 90% of the shares it holds in bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc., according to Security and Exchange Commission filings and a joint statement from the companies. Liberty Interactive, the web division of Liberty Media, is No. 8 in Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide; Barnes & Noble is No. 27; the rankings are based on the retailers’ 2012 North American web sales.  

Liberty Media spent $204 million buying 204,000 shares of Barnes & Noble preferred stock in August 2011, giving Liberty about a 17% ownership stake in Barnes & Noble. Liberty Media will retain about 2% ownership of Barnes & Noble after its shares are sold. It says it expects to settle the share sale on April 8.

Before Liberty Media invested in Barnes & Noble in 2011, it offered to buy the bookseller outright for about $969 million, an offer it later abandoned in favor of buying the preferred stock. At the time, Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei cited his company’s excitement around Barnes & Noble’s digital content, e-commerce and electronic book reader device businesses, all of which have struggled in the intervening years. For the quarter ended Jan. 25, Barnes & Noble’s retail sales, which include the web sales of physical goods, were down 6.3% from a year earlier, and its Nook division, which includes the sales of digital content and e-readers, was down 50.4%.

With the share sale, Liberty Media loses its right to two seats on Barnes & Noble’s board of directors, currently held by Maffei and Liberty Media senior vice president Mark Carleton. After the sale closes, Maffei will vacate his seat. However, Barnes & Noble opted to reelect Carleton as a board member.

“We look forward to maintaining our relationship with [Barnes & Noble] and are pleased that Mark Carleton will continue serving on the board,” Maffei says.

Barnes & Noble in January named Michael P. Huseby as CEO. The bookseller had hired Huseby in 2012 as the company’s 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.    

 

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