Barnes & Noble has agreed to be acquired by Elliott Advisors funds, the owners of Waterstones, the largest book chain in the UK, with Waterstones CEO James Daunt to run both chains, the companies announced Friday. Daunt will be based in New York, a sign that Elliott is prioritizing a new approach to Barnes & Noble after Daunt’s successful turnaround of Waterstones.
News of the sale came after the Wall Street Journal broke the news yesterday that a deal was in the works (see “Barnes & Noble Could Be Close to a Sale”).
The price was $6.50 a share, about $683 million, a 43% premium to the stock price before news of the deal leaked.
Seventy-eight-year-old Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio, who’s been in and out of top roles at the company in recent years, will finally step down for good.
“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Elliott, the owner of Waterstones, a bookseller I have admired over the years,” Riggio said. “In view of the success they have had in the bookselling marketplace, I believe they are uniquely suited to improve and grow our company for many years ahead. I am also confident that James Daunt has the leadership ability and experience necessary to lead this great organization.”
Riggio thanked Barnes & Noble employees, and then added a thanks to B&N suppliers. “My profound thanks, as well, to the entire publishing world, with whom we have shared a great relationship over the years, and the many suppliers who have provided vital services.”
Elliott Portfolio Manager and Head of European Private Equity Paul Best expressed the fund’s commitment to the brick and mortar retail world, an unusual position for investors to take in recent years. ““Our investment in Barnes & Noble, following our investment last year in Waterstones, demonstrates our conviction that readers continue to value the experience of a great bookstore,” he said. “We look forward to working with James Daunt and the Barnes & Noble community of readers, members and booksellers as they start an exciting new chapter.”