Waterstones parent to buy Barnes & Noble

The parent of British bookseller Waterstones, Elliott Management, will purchase Barnes & Noble – the last remaining big-box bookseller left in the US following the departure of rival Borders – for about US$683 million.

Retail Dive reports that once the deal is finalised in Q3 of this year, Waterstones CEO James Daunt will also assume control of all Barnes & Noble operations, although the two firms will remain independent.

Dive Insight says: “The deal with Elliott could mark the closing of a turbulent chapter in Barnes & Noble’s story, one that included a failed merger, a legal battle with a former executive and agitation by activist investors. And prior to that there were years of management turnover, strategic misfires and lost sales as the last box book seller tried to hold off Amazon.”

“As it happens, I know James Daunt fairly well,” said Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio in a letter to employees, “and I am delighted to have him as our new leader.

“Like me, James believes our culture has to be more store-centric, which means more localisation of assortments and operations. It follows that he believes local managers must have more authority to get the job done.”

A press release from Barnes & Noble read that Waterstones “has successfully restored itself to sales growth and sustainable profitability, based on a strategy of investment in their store estate and the empowerment of local bookselling teams.”

Elliott, which has owned Waterstones for about a year, has US$825 million in debt financing available banks to fund the Barnes & Noble acquisition.

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