NEW YORK – The last remaining national bookstore chain is being taken off the shelf and dusted off for sale.
Barnes & Noble’s founder Leonard Riggio disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that he wants to acquire the company’s stores and website, but not the business that makes the Nook e-reader or the company’s college bookstores. No price was disclosed.
It’s the latest attempt by a company founder to take back control of all or part of a company he started. Best Buy’s co-founder Richard Schulze is mulling a bid for the electronics retailer, and Michael Dell earlier this month announced a $24.4 billion deal to take the namesake computer company he founded private.
The deals are a way for executives to exert more control over companies without the need to run everything by shareholders. In all of these cases, the founders have devoted decades to the businesses, and the companies are struggling to survive in a changing retail landscape.
When you’ve got control outside public eye or public market, you can invest and translate your strategy at your own pace, said Peter Wahlstrom, analyst at Morningstar. It’s him believing he can run it better by himself without the distraction of the digital side. He believes the brand has value that’s not being recognized by investors.
Barnes & Noble has been struggling to find its place as more readers have shifted to electronic books and competition has grown.
The company, which has 689 bookstores in 50 states and 674 college bookstores, has been trying to avoid the fate of its former rival Borders Group, which did not adapt to the growing threat of the Internet and e-books and went out of business in 2011.
Technically, Riggio, who is chairman of the chain, didn’t found the original Barnes & Noble store in New York when it opened in 1917. But he bought the store and brand name in the 1970s.
Under his leadership, Barnes & Noble became a one of the pioneers of the big-box format in which national chains would set up large stores that offer a wide selection of merchandise under one roof.
The company also pioneered bookselling in general. In 1975 it began offering 40 percent off New York Times best-sellers, which was then unheard of in the bookselling business.