Recently the founder of one of the world’s biggest of booksellers, Barnes & Noble, who happen to also be the largest shareholder of the struggling company’s stock, decided to sell nearly $28 million worth of those stocks for what was described as “tax planning purposes”.
The question that many people have on their mind is whether this was actually something done truly for taxes or was the founder’s way of “abandoning ship” while there was still plenty of time to do it before the bottom falls out completely. Indeed, many shareholders of Barnes & Noble stock are asking that question of themselves as we speak.
It was only days ago that the Securities and Exchange Commission announced their filing that the founder was cutting his stake in the ailing bookstore chain by approximately 2 million shares. Yes, tax purposes was listed as the reason but the truth is that there have been glaring signs that Barnes & Noble is in trouble over the last 12 months, including the admittance by the company that their attempt to compete with Amazon.com and Apple was ill-fated. At the time Barnes & Noble gave a press release that said “The company plans to significantly reduce losses in the segment by limiting risks associated with manufacturing.”
William Lynch, the company’s chief executive officer, resigned less than a month later. This was hardly surprising given the fact that Mr. Lynch had no retail experience whatsoever and was simply hired in order to boost the bookstore chains presence in the digital arena, something it has now almost completely abandoned.
In November Barnes & Noble revealed the impact that this had on their business when they reported their second-quarter earnings were off by 8% and that same-store sales were also down by nearly 5%. Most experts agreed at that time that there was no point in managing Barnes & Noble stock for long-term growth because the company simply has no future. They likened it to a person in hospice care who was being “managed” while waiting for the inevitable to happen.
B&N also recently announced that the SEC is beginning investigations into their accounting practices as well, looking into their decision from last summer to restate their earnings for the fiscal years of 2011 and 12. They’re looking into claims by a former employee that expenses between their digital and brick and mortar divisions were improperly allocated.
All this leads to a simple question of whether Mr. Leonard Riggio, founder of the once mighty Barnes & Noble, sold his stock shares simply for “tax planning purposes” or whether the reason behind his decision is much more ominous.