After Waterstones, Elliott to acquire Barnes & Noble

RetailME Bureau

US-based retail bookseller Barnes & Noble, Inc. has announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to be acquired by funds advised by Elliott Advisors (UK) Limited in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $683 million. This follows Elliott’s acquisition of UK-based retail bookseller Waterstones in June 2018.

Following the close of the transaction – expected in the third quarter of 2019 – Elliott will own both Barnes & Noble and Waterstones. While each bookseller will operate independently, they will share a common CEO and benefit from the sharing of best practice between the companies. James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will assume the role of CEO of Barnes & Noble following the completion of the transaction and will be based in New York.

Through this acquisition, Elliott seeks to build upon Barnes & Noble’s strong foundation as it addresses significant challenges facing the bricks-and-mortar book retail space, applying a model that successfully turned around Waterstones over the past decade. A strategy of investment in its store estate and empowerment of local bookselling teams, restored sales growth and sustainable profitability for Waterstones.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Elliott, the owner of Waterstones, a bookseller I have admired over the years. In view of the success they have had in the bookselling marketplace, I believe they are uniquely suited to improve and grow our company for many years ahead. I am also confident that James Daunt has the leadership ability and experience necessary to lead this great organization. I will do everything I can to help him make the transition smooth. Having been the leader of Barnes & Noble for 54 years, I have had the privilege of working with the very best people in all the world of bookselling, including our great store managers and booksellers, who work in our stores. It is they who have made Barnes & Noble the #1 most reputable retailer in America,” said Leonard Riggio, founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble.

“I look forward greatly to working with the booksellers at Barnes & Noble. Physical bookstores the world over face fearsome challenges from online and digital. We meet these with investment and with all the more confidence for being able to draw on the unrivalled bookselling skills of these two great companies. As a place in which to choose a book, and for the sheer pleasure of visiting, we know that a good bookstore has no equal. I thank Mr. Riggio for his confidence, and I am grateful to Elliott for their commitment to support the continued transformation at Waterstones, and now also the same at Barnes & Noble,” Daunt added.

“Our investment in Barnes & Noble, following our investment last year in Waterstones, demonstrates our conviction that readers continue to value the experience of a great bookstore. We would like to acknowledge the contributions of Founder and Chairman Leonard Riggio and his team for creating the leading bookstore company in the United States. We look forward to working with James Daunt and the Barnes & Noble community of readers, members and booksellers as they start an exciting new chapter,” concluded Paul Best, portfolio manager and head of European Private Equity at Elliott.