Barnes & Noble chief leaves after losses on Nook e-readers

split of digital, retail might be in the works

New York Times News ServiceJuly 10, 2013 

William Lynch Jr., the chief executive of Barnes & Noble, resigned Monday, two weeks after a devastating earnings report that accentuated the bookseller's losing battle against powerful rivals like Amazon.

Lynch's departure was part of a series of sweeping changes the company announced as it tries to regain its footing after a failed initiative to build up its Nook division and compete in the increasingly crowded market for e-readers. When it revealed its fourth-quarter earnings late last month, Barnes & Noble said it would cease making its own color tablets, an acknowledgment that they were lagging popular brands like Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad.

Instead, the company said it would form partnerships with third parties to make the color devices, while it continued to make and sell its own black-and-white versions of the Nook.

In a statement Monday, the company said Michael P. Huseby had been appointed chief executive of the Nook division and president of Barnes & Noble. Huseby has served as chief financial officer since joining Barnes & Noble in March 2012; previously he held that position at Cablevision Systems, a media company.

The moves Monday appeared to be a step toward separating the digital and retail divisions, as the company has indicated it might do. Barnes & Noble has been in talks over a potential sale of its digital assets, as well as its 675 bookstores.

Microsoft is one potential buyer of the Nook business; last year it invested hundreds of millions to acquire 17.6 percent of the division.

Riggio has expressed interest in taking back ownership of the physical stores that make Barnes & Noble the largest bookstore chain in the country. Mary Ellen Keating, a spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble, declined to provide an update on that offer.

Lynch joined Barnes & Noble in February 2009, with no previous experience in bookselling.

The signs have been ominous for the company since the beginning of the year, when it announced that sales for the nine-week holiday period in late 2012 had declined at both its bookstores and in the Nook unit.

Barnes & Noble has one Lexington location, in the Hamburg Pavilion shopping center.

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