Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio is trying to buy the bookstores and e-commerce business from the company, it announced Monday. That would leave B&N’s share of the Nook business and the college bookstores in the public company.
Unlike its Nook business, the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain is profitable, although sales are declining (see "Barnes & Noble Holidays Down"). The company is planning to close stores over time from its current 689 stores to around 450 to 500 in about ten years (see "B&N Confirms Plans to Close Stores").
Barnes & Noble owns 78% of the Nook division; Pearson and Microsoft own the rest (see "Pearson Invests in Nook").
If there is a break-up, valuing the bookstores is going to be an interesting proposition. At the Person investment price, the company’s share of Nook is worth $1.4 billion, far more than the value of the company as a whole, giving the book chain a negative value. But since they’re profitable, the bookstores are definitely worth something, even if they’re not growing.
One positive of a break-up might be a greater focus on the chain’s core bookselling business. The giant Nook islands in the center of the stores and the company’s overwhelming focus on digital has hurt sales of other products, according to some.
The company’s negotiations with its chairman will be overseen by a Strategic Committee of independent directors.