Private equity firm buying Barnes & Noble after bookseller’s bruising battle with Amazon

James Daunt

Elliott bought the United Kingdom bookseller Waterstones in June 2018. The deal values Barnes & Noble at $6.50 a share, a 43 percent premium to the retailer's 10-day volume weighted average closing share price before news of an imminent deal leaked Thursday. Those possible buyers including founder Leonard Riggio who opened Barnes & Noble stores across the country and turned it into a superstore.

Should Elliott prevail with its bid, James Daunt, chief executive officer of Waterstones, would head Barnes & Noble, the source said.

Barnes & Noble Inc.is finally closing the books on its almost 26 years as a publicly traded company.

Daunt said, "I look forward greatly to working with the booksellers at Barnes & Noble". The retailer still generates cash - sales were nearly $3.6 billion a year ago - and the little outstanding debt on its balance sheet isn't due until 2023.

Elliott Management announced it has reached an agreement to buy Barnes & Noble for $476 million. Barnes & Noble had a net margin of 0.04% and a return on equity of 7.09%. Investors Research Corp bought a new position in Barnes & Noble in the 1st quarter valued at approximately $33,000. A big investment in its Nook e-book device - a competitor for Amazon's Fire tablets - was ultimately a bust.

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Despite the relentless competition, Barnes & Noble has managed to somewhat stabilize its business, with revenue declines narrowing to a drop of 3.1% a year ago. It's a bittersweet ending for Riggio, no doubt, but turning a page on what is still America's largest bookstore chain is better than the alternative.

Now, Elliott is set to own the largest bookseller in the US, too.

It is not known whether Barnes & Noble will adopt the Waterstones strategy of operating more like a large conglomerate of independent bookstores, but the combined company increases its footprint. "We meet these with investment and with all the more confidence for being able to draw on the unrivaled bookselling skills of these two great companies", Daunt said in a statement.

Barnes & Noble has been seeking new ownership for some time, and the board of directors voted unanimously to approve the deal and recommend it to the company's shareholders.

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