Liberty Media Sells Most of Large Stake in Barnes & Noble

In another example of a shake up in America's unsteady retail sector, one of the biggest stake holders in Barnes & Noble has decided to sell off most of its position in the book selling chain.

Only weeks ago Liberty Media was named the most profitable media company in the world. But this month Liberty is announcing that it is retreating from one area of its media empire with its announcement of the intended sell off.

In 2011 Liberty Media, best known for owning the Sirius XM satellite radio service, made a big play for book seller Barnes & Noble eventually buying in with a 17 percent stake in the company. But with this new move, Liberty will reduce its holdings to 2 percent of the company.

Liberty's investment in the bookseller coincided with Barnes & Noble's early success with its Nook electronic book reader.

But in the last few years sales for the company's e-reader have collapsed, one reason being that rival Amazon.com undercut Barnes & Noble's prices for devices and services. Customer support for Nook also never recovered when a raft of other companies such as Apple and Amazon began offering their own e-readers, pads and tablets.

With Nook sales falling off by 50 percent, the e-reader division has shed 200 employees.

The brick and mortar locations of the book company, though, have been holding their own, but most analysts feel that hardboard and paperback books are not much of a growth industry.

Needless to say, Barnes & Noble has been struggling to find its way in the world of electronic media. With this divestment, though, Liberty will also lose its two seats on the book company's board. Liberty CEO Gregory B. Maffei will leave the board of the book company this month.

Maffei claimed that his leaving will give Barnes & Noble more flexibility to recreate itself.

"By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives," Maffei said in his announcement of the divestment.

Barnes & Noble’s stock was down 13.52 percent, trading at $19.12 a share at the end of trading on April 3.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com


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