Meet the hedge fund that’s buying Barnes & Noble’s 627 stores

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Very likely Barnes & Noble, with its almost 630 stores and Amazon always in the background, will need to shrink some more and keep tinkering with its merchandising, stores and engagement.

Under the sale, Waterstones CEO James Daunt will take over as head of Barnes & Noble, leading both retailers and working out of NY.

The owner of United Kingdom bookseller Waterstones has agreed to buy Barnes & Noble for roughly $683 million, the companies said Friday.

Once the towering Goliath of the bookselling world, these days Barnes & Noble is getting dwarfed by primarily online competitors - particularly Amazon, which reportedly sells almost 50 percent of all new books.

Daunt said, "I look forward greatly to working with the booksellers at Barnes & Noble". It became the nation's second-largest bookseller and began selling books online in partnership with IBM and Sears.

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Both Elliott and Barnes & Noble did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment. Along the way, it's weathered self-inflicted wounds and internal drama. The company's annual sales have fallen for the past three years. The deal is valued at around $683 million, including the assumption of debt, according to the Wall Street Journal. Last year, in an effort to get energy company Sempra Energy to focus on its regulated electricity and natural gas distribution business, Elliott forced Sempra to sell its renewables business for $1.5 billion.

The deal also includes a $30 million breakup fee, the filings show. The deal follows Elliott's June 2018 acquisition of Waterstones, the largest retail bookseller in the U.K. James Daunt, CEO of Waterstones, will also assume the role of CEO of the beleaguered Barnes & Noble following the completion of the transaction.

The sources have noted that these discussions are ongoing and the Barnes & Noble could still choose not to pursue a sale.

"Physical bookstores the world over face fearsome challenges from online and digital. We meet these with investment and with all the more confidence for being able to draw on the unrivaled bookselling skills of these two great companies", Daunt said in a statement.

Waterstones organizes multiple, simultaneous events at its stores, making them "a "fun place to discover books and enjoy the particularities of a bookstore".

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