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Barnes & Noble founder plans bid for retail assets

by Lou Whiteman  |  Published February 25, 2013 at 10:42 AM
Barnes & Noble Inc. founder and chairman Leonard Riggio served notice Monday, Feb. 25, that he plans to submit an offer to buy the retail assets of the troubled book seller, which has struggled to adapt to the transition to digital reading.

Riggio in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission said he wants to negotiate a cash purchase of the company's physical locations excluding its college outlets. Riggio opened his first bookstore in New York's Greenwich Village in 1965, and still holds a 37.8% stake in the company.

The chairman in his regulatory filing said he would also assume certain debt as part of the proposal, which he said could be financed in part via debt.

New York-based Barnes & Noble in a statement confirmed it received word from Riggio that the founder intends to place a bid, but cautioned that there is no assurance that a definitive offer would emerge or any time table for a deal to happen. The company said evaluation and negotiation of the bid would be handled by a three-member board committee with assistance from advisers Evercore Partners Inc. and Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP.

Barnes & Noble operates 689 bookstores in 50 states. It also has a unit that operates 674 bookstores at colleges and universities, as well as digital operations including its Nook reader and its website. The company's retail stores generated revenue of $996 million during the fiscal quarter ended in October, compared to $773 million in revenue from the collegiate retail unit and about $160 million in revenue from the Nook business.

The company is valued by the market at about $800 million. Shares of Barnes & Noble jumped $1.37 per share, or $10.16%, to $14.86, in premarket trading Monday.

While retail booksellers have been pummeled by Inc. and other online outlets, Barnes & Noble's retail sales indicate that there is still demand for books. Some analysts have argued that the retail operations are a logical buyout candidate, with strong cash flows to pay off debt but little opportunity for the dramatic growth that public markets crave.

Tags: Inc. | Barnes & Noble Inc. | Evercore Partners Inc. | Leonard Riggio | Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP

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