Barnes & Noble founder to buy back bookstores

Leonard Riggio, founder of the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain, has said he plans to offer to buy back its retail operations, but not its Nook e-reader.

Mr Riggio, who owns almost 30% of the company, notified US regulators that he would seek to purchase the loss-making firm's stores and online business.

The news sent Barnes & Noble's share price 11.5% higher in Monday trading.

Like book retailers worldwide, the firm has struggled to compete with cheap online vendors and downloads.

Main rival Borders was liquidated in 2011, after it succumbed to the pressure from digital competitors.

Barnes & Noble has sought to stay ahead of the game with its Nook product, which seeks to compete for readership with Amazon's Kindle and with tablet computers.

The e-reader attracted significant investments from Microsoft and UK media group Pearson last year, leaving Barnes & Noble with a 78% share in the product, which Mr Riggio does not propose to buyback.

There was talk early last year of spinning off the Nook, along with its successful digital college business, into a separate joint venture.

However, the firm's sales of both Nook products and of traditional books have both struggled.

Barnes & Noble reported a $39m loss for the last six months, and said sales through its stores and online platform over the critical Christmas period fell 11% from a year earlier.

The firm plans to shut a third of its stores by the end of the year.

Mr Riggio's offer follows similar moves by Michael Dell of Dell computers and Richard Schultze of electrical retailer Best Buy to buy out the struggling firms they founded.

Barnes & Noble was originally a New York bookstore, which Mr Riggio bought out the branding rights to in the 1970s, before building out a successful US-wide chain.

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