NEW YORK — The last remaining national bookstore chain is being taken off the shelf and dusted off for sale.
Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio disclosed in a regulatory filing Monday that he wants to acquire the company’s stores and website, but not its college bookstores or the business that makes the Nook e-reader. No price was disclosed.
It’s the latest attempt by a founder to retake control of all or part of a company he started. Best Buy’s co-founder Richard Schulze is mulling a bid for the electronics retailer, and Michael Dell earlier this month announced a $24.4 billion deal to take the namesake computer company private.
The deals allow executives to exert more control over companies without the need to run everything by shareholders.
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In all of these cases, the founders have devoted decades to the businesses, and the companies are struggling to survive in a changing retail landscape.
“When you’ve got control outside public eye or public market, you can invest and translate your strategy at your own pace,” said Peter Wahlstrom, an analyst at Morningstar. “It’s him (Riggio) believing he can run it better by himself without the distraction of the digital side. He believes the brand has value that’s not being recognized by investors.”
Barnes & Noble has been struggling to find its place as more readers shift to electronic books and competition has grown from discount stores and online competitors, such as Seattle-based Amazon.com.
The company, which has 689 bookstores in 50 states and 674 college bookstores, has been trying to avoid the fate of its rival Borders Group, which did not adapt to the growing threat of the Internet and e-books and went out of business in 2011.
Technically, Riggio, chairman of the chain, didn’t found the original Barnes & Noble when the store opened in 1917. But he bought the store and brand name in the 1970s. Under his leadership, it became one of the pioneers of the “big box” format.
The company also pioneered bookselling in general. In 1975, it began offering 40 percent off New York Times best sellers, then unheard of in the bookselling business.
Throughout the 1980s, the company expanded through acquisitions. It bought B Dalton Bookseller in 1987 and BookStop in 1989. Then it went public in 1993 and established its website in 1997.
But it was hurt by Amazon and discounters such as Wal-Mart and Issaquah-based Costco expanding their book selections.
Barnes & Noble has been proactive, investing heavily in its Nook readers and a digital library. It struck a deal with Microsoft last April to create a Nook subsidiary.
But the Nook faces competition from other devices like Apple’s iPad Mini, Amazon’s Kindle and Google’s Nexus tablet.
And the unit is far from profitable. Earlier this month, the company said it expects Nook media revenue of less than $3 billion in fiscal 2013.
It also anticipates a loss for the unit, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, to exceed the $262 million loss recorded in its 2012 fiscal year.
This follows the retailer’s report in January that its Nook revenue fell 12.6 percent to
$311 million during the holiday period.
Overall sales during the holiday period fell 10.9 percent at bookstores and online compared with a year ago. Barnes & Noble is to report third-quarter results Thursday.
The bookstores, though, have been profitable even though they’re facing falling sales. The company has broadened its offerings in stores and sells more high-margin games, educational toys and other nonbook items.
Monday’s filing said that Riggio, Barnes & Noble’s largest shareholder with nearly
30 percent of the company’s shares, will seek to negotiate a price with the board and pay for the deal with cash and debt.
Barnes & Noble shares rose $1.55 Monday, or about 11.5 percent, to close at $15.06.