Liberty Media Corp. has sold most of its stake in Barnes & Noble to what the company called “qualified institutional buyers.” Liberty invested about $204 million in B&N in August 2011 to acquire preferred shares after it had explored the possibility of acquiring the company.
In prepared statements, executives at both Liberty and B&N suggested that the sale could lead to more moves by the chain. “By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives,” said Greg Maffei, president and CEO, Liberty Media. “Liberty’s decision to retain a portion of its investment and have active involvement on our board underscores Liberty’s ongoing commitment to Barnes & Noble,” B&N chairman Len Riggio said in the release, and he added that Liberty’s reduced ownership also gives B&N greater flexibility to pursue various strategic options. As is well known, B&N has been exploring ways to dramatically scale back its investment in e-reading devices and focus on the sale of digital content plus its trade and college bookstores.
As part of the sale, Liberty will lose its rights to have two B&N board members and Maffei will step down on April 8. A second representative from Liberty, Mark Carleton, has been re-elected to the board. Liberty will retain about a 10% share of its original holding, or about 2% of B&N's stock.