Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Tussle Over Barnes And Noble

After Barnes And Noble put itself up for sale, we now have a boardroom fight for control over the company. An excerpt:

A fight for control over Barnes & Noble is underway -- a business-level fight, that is, all wrapped up in stock trades and boardroom politics. No fisticuffs -- at least, not yet.

Today Leonard Riggio, Barnes & Noble's founder and chairman, exercised an option to buy almost a million more shares of the company. He'll be spending $16.8 million on 990,740 shares, which brings his total to... well, a lot. Before the purchase, Riggio held about 29.9% of the company's shares.

Like just about everything else in this economy, Barnes & Noble's shares have taken a beating. Five years ago, they peaked at around $45 a share; nowadays they've dropped almost two-thirds, to about $16.

That might mean the company is in trouble, but it has made it attractive to someone -- namely, investor Ron Burkle. He's already a large stockholder, possessing 19.2% of shares. The company doesn't want another investor to take over -- in 2009, it implemented a poison pill that'll be triggered if someone else's shares reach 20%. Yes, Burkle is close. He tried to remove the poison pill by legal action this year, but a judge ruled against him Aug. 11.

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