Beleaguered Bookstore Barnes & Noble Gets a Buyer

June 7, 2019, 1:43 PM UTC

Beleaguered bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. has a buyer.

Elliott Management Corp. agreed to purchase the chain for $6.50 per share in an all-cash transaction valued about $476 million, plus the assumption of debt, the company said in a statement Friday.

Barnes & Noble shares rose 8.4% to $6.46 in early trading. They had surged 30% on Thursday on news that Elliott was close to a deal.

Elliott, run by the billionaire Paul Singer, has experience in the book business. It acquired Waterstones, a U.K. book retailer, last year. James Daunt, chief executive officer of Waterstones, will also become CEO of Barnes & Noble. Elliott will keep the chains operating independently but the brands will “share a common CEO and benefit from the sharing of best practice between the companies.”

Including debt, the deal is valued at $683 million, according to the companies.

Barnes & Noble, with more than 600 stores, has tried strategies such as offering food and coffee and selling non-book merchandise, but has failed to stem the onslaught of Inc. Along the way, it’s weathered self-inflicted wounds and internal drama. A big investment in its Nook e-book device — a competitor for Amazon’s Fire tablets — was ultimately a bust.

Despite the relentless competition from Amazon, Barnes & Noble has managed to somewhat stabilize its business over the past few years, with revenue declines narrowing to a drop of 3.1% last year. The retailer still generates cash — sales were almost $3.6 billion last year — and the little outstanding debt on its balance sheet isn’t due until 2023. The company has also spent the past few years closing weak stores or moving them to better locations.

“Physical bookstores the world over face fearsome challenges from online and digital,” Daunt said in a statement. “We meet these with investment and with all the more confidence for being able to draw on the unrivaled bookselling skills of these two great companies.”

Chairman Leonard Riggio, the company’s largest shareholder, has entered into a voting agreement in support of the transaction, according to the statement. In October, the company said it was considering a sale to several interested parties, including Riggio. Riggio had previously expressed interest in buying Barnes & Noble but later withdrew.

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