June 9, 2019
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The New York Times reports that an investment firm best known for buying up Argentine bonds after the country had defaulted and then pursuing the country in courts around the world until a new administration agreed to pay – Elliott Advisors made some $2 billion on the deal (three times what it paid) – has bought the U.S.’s largest book chain, Barnes & Noble.
Elliott will place B&N under the management of the CEO of British bookstore chain Waterstones, which it bought in June 2018. (Waterstones operate more than 280 stores; its total and per-store sales are dwarfed by B&N’s.)
Although it operates hundreds fewer stores than it did at its peak (having closed its B Dalton stores, and spun off its GameStop and B&N College divisions), B&N remains the country’s largest book chain with 627 stores. #2 Books-A-Million operates some 260 stores, primarily in the South. #3 Half-Price Books (a Midwestern and Southern chain specializing in discounted titles) operates about 125 stores. B&N sales have been falling in recent years (and it lost many hundreds of millions on its online operation and its efforts to move into ebooks); Amazon.com now has higher book revenues, though it is #5 in terms of the number of physical bookstores it operates.
Elliott is controlled by Paul Singer, a financier and major Republican donor who donated $1 million to the Trump inauguration.