ANN is reporting that Liberty Media offered a bid to purchase Barnes & Noble. The bid is reportedly valued at $1 billion, or $17 per share. The bookstore’s board is evaluating the offer. Analysts are pegging the move as a way to use the Nook line to leverage products from their various child companies. Bloomberg is pegging the move as a “Warren Buffet-like” charity purchase
I can’t help but find this both humorous and fascinating. It’s humorous in a sense that, as Borders is gasping for air and trying to simply survive, Barnes & Noble is being courted by the elites of media conglomerates. And, at the same time, it’s not the company’s massive retail presences being (presumably) bid on, but a simple brand. Something that didn’t even exist until November, 2009. Granted, Barnes & Noble’s retail presence has been harmed in the past few years due to increased competition.
The fascinating part comes into the realm of what this could mean for Barnes & Noble and the Nook like as a whole if the purchase goes through. John Malone, Chairman of Liberty Holdings, has an instinct for finding amazing values in depressed companies. Under his watch, Liberty has purchased stakes in Sirius XM Radio, QVC, and Starz Media, among others. And, under his company’s tutelage, these companies have returned from the brink of bankruptcy to become profitable organizations. Malone typically avoids “cross-pollinating” his companies, according to Bloomberg. However, it may be interesting to see if this policy holds if the Barnes & Noble offer goes through.
As I mentioned earlier, Liberty Holdings has stakes in XM Sirius and Starz Media. Starz is the parent company of Manga Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment, both of whom have ties to the anime industry. The Nook, as a media delivery device, could gain a leg-up on the Kindle by offering video distribution through the device. The added utility, if handled properly, would be a draw for new customers, as well as a major upgrade that could be desirable to a set of existing customers.
The fate of the company’s brick and mortar stores would be worth watching as well, as they are a large market for manga sales. While Barmes & Noble typically doesn’t stock as deeply as Borders, the company is still a valuable market for the industry, which has been dealt a number of crushing blows in recent months.
Of course, this is a simple “what if” scenario that may or may not occur at this point. I’ll keep watching the situation intently, as the ramifications could be monstrous for the retailer.