Liberty Media announced today it will sell the majority stake in the struggling bookseller and leave one of its seats on the company's board of directors.
Liberty said it will retain about 10 percent of its shares, but the remainder will be sold to qualified buyers by April 8. This reduction will mean it no longer has the right to elect two people to the board.
Barnes & Noble shares fell by more than 10 percent on word of this news.
This move by Liberty closes the chapter on a story that started in 2011 when it attempted to buy Barnes & Noble for $1 billion. That deal never came through and instead Liberty settled for grabbing about 17 percent of the company's stock for $204 million.
The online and brick and mortar bookseller has struggled financially over the last several years, despite posting a profit in its last quarter, but in February announced it would be cutting staffers from its Nook division. Nook revenue had fallen for the quarter by more than 50 percent.
The Liberty and Barnes & Noble's executive teams put a positive spin on the move.
"By reducing our preferred position and eliminating some of our related rights, Barnes & Noble will gain greater flexibility to accomplish their strategic objectives," said Greg Maffei, president and CEO of Liberty Media. "We look forward to maintaining our relationship with the company and are pleased that Mark Carleton will continue serving on the board. Mike Huseby and his team are doing a great job in the retail, college and Nook spaces."
"Liberty Media has been a strong supporter of the company and Greg Maffei and Mark Carleton have been and continue to be tremendous partners at an important time in the company's history," said Leonard Riggio, chairman of Barnes & Noble. "Liberty's decision to retain a portion of its investment and have active involvement on our board underscores Liberty's ongoing commitment to Barnes & Noble." Riggio added that Liberty's reduced ownership also gives the company greater flexibility to pursue various strategic options.
Maffei will give up his spot on the Barnes & Noble board. However, Mark Carleton, Liberty's other board member, will remain in his position.