Liberty To Shed Bulk of B&N Stake

Liberty Media said Thursday that it will sell off most of its stake in book retailer Barnes & Noble, ending a foray into the electronic book market the cable giant made three years ago.

In a statement, Liberty said it will sell its interest in B&N to “qualified institutional buyers,” retaining about 2% of its interest in the book seller. Liberty said the sales should close on April 8.

As a result of its reduced ownership, Liberty said it will no longer have the right to elect two members to Barnes & Noble’s board of directors, and effective April 8 Liberty CEO Greg Maffei will cease to serve on the B&N board. Liberty senior vice president Mark Carleton has been re-elected to the B&N board effective April 8.

“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 a statement. “We look forward to maintaining our relationship with the company.”

Liberty first invested about $204 million for a 17% stake in B&N in 2011, in what some analysts believed was an attempt to gain control of the retailer’s Nook electronic book technology. But as the Nook has foundered under competition from the Amazon Kindle, Liberty’s interest appeared to wane.

 “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 Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio in a statement. “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.”