Liberty Media Puts In One Billion Bid to Buy Barnes & Noble

Posted by at 3:06 pm on May 20, 2011

Barnes and Noble finished Thursday with surprise word that it had received a buyout proposal from Liberty Media for about $17 per share, or almost $1 billion. The deal would require that Barnes & Noble chair Leonard Riggio stay in his executive position and keep his controlling stake. Officials stressed the notice wasn’t an approval of the deal and said they would study it with the help of a legal advisor team.

The bookseller has made an unusually public affair of trying to sell itself off over the course of the past several months but, until now, wasn’t known to have a substantial offer apart from a brief mention of Borders. The rival has had to give up as its recent bankruptcy has made any deal impractical.

Barnes & Noble has been relatively successful in transitioning to e-books, having sold large numbers of Nook Colors and growing to be second only to Amazon, but its finances haven’t necessarily followed suit. Outside of holiday sales, it has been losing money most quarters. The company’s need to prop up physical bookstores has been considered a liability where Amazon, Apple, and others have thrived on both online and electronics shop sales.

Liberty Media’s offer would be unusual and would come from a company that has traditionally focused on TV, such as the Starz network and its deep stake in satellite radio provider Sirius XM. The move would give it a foothold not just in digital reading, where it has no real influence so far, as well as a possible dip into tablets and other devices.

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