Barnes & Noble announced late Thursday afternoon that it received a bid to acquire the company from Liberty Media for $17 per share in cash. According to B&N, the offer has a number of contingencies, including the participation of chairman Len Riggio, both in terms of his continuing equity ownership and his continuing role in management. The offer is worth about $1 billion.
The special committee of the board of directors that has been reviewing B&N’s strategic alternatives said it will evaluate the proposal.
The proposed deal got the support of one of the industry's largest publishers. David Shanks, CEO of Penguin Group USA, said the announcement "will be welcomed by authors, readers and publishers. All of us have an interest in the financial security and prosperity of booksellers. The emergence of strong and committed owners, supported by experienced and successful management, will send a positive signal to the whole industry.”
Liberty Media is controlled by media baron John Malone who holds stakes in a variety of media businesses. The offer is a significant premium about the $14.11 per share B&N’s shares were selling for at the close of business May 19. Last year, Riggio vigorously fought off attempts by Ron Burkle to acquire a significant stake in B&N saying the offer was undervalued. And unlike the Burkle offer, Malone has made a point to include Riggio as part of ongoing management with a stake in the company. When B&N began exploring the possible sale of the company last year, Riggio said he would be interested in any attempt to acquire the chain.
According to Liberty Media, they would get a 70% stake in B&N with Riggio holding on to his 30% interest. Analysts see the proposed acquisition as a way for Malone to use the Nook family of reading devices to help deliver content from its various holdings. Among its holdings are Leisure Arts, the how-to book publisher of needlework and other crafts, the cable network Starz and the travel site Expedia.