Barnes & Noble chairman sells 3.7M shares

Barnes & Noble founder and chairman sells 3.7 million shares

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Barnes & Noble's founder and largest shareholder Leonard Riggio sold 3.7 million shares in the bookseller, his second such move in five months.

The move disclosed Thursday drops his stake down to about 20 percent from 26.3 percent. In December, Riggio cut his stake from 29.8 percent to 26.3 percent.

Shares of Barnes & Noble fell 4 percent in premarket trading.

Riggio remains the largest shareholder by far. The next biggest investor, Dimensional Fund Advisors, has a nearly 8 percent stake.

Riggio said the sale is part of his long-term financial and estate planning and that he has no plans to sell more stock this calendar year.

The stake reduction comes at a tricky time for the retailer however. Earlier this month, Liberty Media Corp. cut its stake in Barnes & Noble Corp. The investment company controlled by billionaire investor John Malone gave Barnes & Noble, the largest specialty bookstore chain, a lifeline in 2011 when it bought 12 million Barnes & Noble shares at $17 apiece. The shares had represented a 17 percent stake in the company. The company said it was keeping 10 percent of its original investment.

Barnes & Noble has been facing tough times as reading habits shift to digital formats. The company is trying to turn itself around as competition from discount stores and online retailers toughens. The chain has invested heavily in its Nook digital unit, but that division has not been profitable.

In its most recent earnings report, Barnes & Noble reported a third-quarter profit as cost cuts helped offset declining revenue.

Riggio acquired Barnes & Noble's brand name in the 1970s and helped pioneer the "big-box" retail format, in which national chains would set up large stores that offer a wide selection of merchandise under one roof.

The stock had been up 24 percent for the year.

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