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Barnes & Noble Bought By Hedge Fund, To Be Led By U.K. Bookseller


Barnes & Noble has found a new owner with prodigiously deep pockets.

Elliott Management, the hedge fund run by Paul Singer, has purchased a controlling interest in the bookstore chain in an all-cash transaction valued at $475M, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. Elliott will pay around $683M total, including the cost of assuming the company's debt, when the deal closes (expected to be in the third quarter).

After its purchase of British bookseller Waterstones last year, Elliott now owns the biggest bookstore chains in both the U.S. and the U.K., and told the WSJ it would keep both brands. Waterstones CEO James Daunt will run both companies, which tasks him with keeping a large portion of the physical bookstore industry alive in the face of Amazon's constant pressure.

Daunt predates Elliott's ownership, and has made the company profitable since 2016 after a string of losses. One of his strategies has been to open neighborhood bookstores under different names to help integrate them into smaller community high streets, much like the hotel industry has done to keep pace with Airbnb.

Barnes & Noble has been doing something similar since December 2017, when it began its push to open 10K SF stores, much smaller than its previous standard footprint. Now-former Chairman Robert Liggio has had B&N on the market since October, and shares in the publicly traded company jumped in value after news of its sale broke. At $475M or $6.50 per share, Elliott paid a 9% premium over the company's value on the New York Stock Exchange. B&N closed Thursday at $5.96 per share.

Singer has made waves with some of Elliott Management's previous investments, perhaps most notably when he sued the government of Argentina over missed payments on bonds he had bought. He tried to take control of an Argentinian Navy warship as collateral, gaining him a mention on HBO's "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver."