Barnes & Noble Inc. Chairman Leonard Riggio is hoping to buy out the struggling retail side of the bookstore business he bought some 40 years ago as digital advances and online competition threaten the chain’s growth.
In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Riggio said he plans to make an offer for Barnes & Noble Booksellers and barnesandnoble.com. The proposal will exclude the separate unit the company created this fall to deal with its Nook e-reader and college bookstores efforts.
The New York company’s stock was up as much as 11% in Monday morning trading to $15.01 a share.
Barnes & Noble acknowledged Riggio’s interest in a statement and said that it compiled a committee of three independent directors to evaluate the proposal and oversee any negotiations.
The company said it has no timetable for the review. Riggio bought Barnes & Noble in the 1970s and is now the company’s largest shareholder, with a 30% stake.
Riggio informed the company’s board of his intentions Monday, according to the SEC filing. He expects to negotiate a price with the board and fund the buyout mostly with cash.
Barnes & Noble operates 689 bookstores across the country. Separately, a college booksellers division has 674 locations.
The industry has had trouble navigating recent competitive and consumer changes, including the boom of online booksellers, the advent of e-readers and evolving reading habits.
Rival bookseller Borders Group Inc. liquidated in 2011. Last month, a top company executive indicated that Barnes & Noble anticipates closing up to a third of its brick-and-mortar bookstores over the next decade.
That would leave the chain with 450 to 500 stores, according to a Wall Street Journal report quoting Mitchell Klipper, chief executive of Barnes & Noble’s retail group.
Sales in the chain’s retail segment slipped during the nine-week holiday period ending Dec. 29, dipping 10.9% compared with the same period a year earlier due in part to store closures and lower online sales.
Nook sales also declined as selling prices fell along with unit volume. Barnes & Noble says it expects same-store retail sales to fall again in the current fiscal year.
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