Bookstore For Sale: Barnes & Noble
The Board also announced that, based on their decision to "explore strategic alternatives," the company's founder and largest shareholder, Leonard Riggio, intends to consider the possibility of forming an investment group to acquire the company. In other words, he is considering an attempt to take the company private, and one can't help but wonder whether expressions of such an interest on Mr. Riggio's part was a leading cause of the Board's decision to put the company up for sale. That said, there are a couple of other large shareholders, and it is possible that they will have ideas of their own.
The market immediately reacted favorably to the news. Buyouts generally come at a premium to current stock price. Barnes and Noble's stock quickly shot up over 20%. However, it must be remembered that even with this spike, the stock was still barely over half of its high price of the past year. Except for the preceding few weeks, if you bought the stock any time during the last 12 years, you lost money.
In another announcement, and one more targeted to improving the performance of their stores, Barnes and Noble announced that it would be expanding its "Nook" displays to include "full service e-reading boutiques." The "Nook" is Barnes and Nobles electronic reading device. These boutiques are more than just a display area for their electronic readers. It is a place to preview electronic books, something akin to what their stores have always provided for printed books. This looks to us to be a smart idea as it attempts to leverage that one asset B&N has that its competitors lack, a local presence, into sales. It also provides the social setting for reading electronic books they provided for physical books, and if they can make this work to their advantage, Amazon cannot encroach on their space. It is worth the try.
B&N will also provide Nook software for other electronic reading devices, such as iPads and iPhones, Blackberries and Androids, so that the electronic books they sell can be used on devices other than their own Nooks. The electronic reader missing from this list is the most popular of them all, Amazon's Kindle. This is not Barnes and Noble's choice. Kindles use proprietary software. B&N is open source. Time will tell whether Amazon's go-it-alone strategy generates more of fewer sales. Barnes and Noble will be cooperating with others in hopes of their combined forces successfully taking on Amazon.