By Liana B. Baker
Feb 27 Liberty Media Corp, which holds
a large stake in Barnes & Noble, said on Wednesday it has the
power to block a sale of Barnes & Nobles retail stores
and it is waiting to see whether the bookseller's chairman
Leonard Riggio will make an offer.
Liberty Media, controlled by cable pioneer and billionaire
John Malone, owns preferred shares, that, if converted, would
give it a 17 percent stake of bookseller Barnes & Noble. Its CEO
Greg Maffei spoke about Barnes & Noble on a conference call
following Liberty's fourth-quarter results.
On Monday, Barnes & Noble said its chairman, Leonard Riggio
plans to make an offer for the company's bookstores in a deal
that would split the stores off from the company's Nook device
and e-book business. [ID: nL4N0BP49M]
Maffei, the Liberty CEO, said on a conference call with
investors that his company "has a fair amount of rights to
influence or block any sale that we don't see as advantageous"
and that it is waiting to see if a transaction occurs. Liberty's
preferred shares come with voting rights.
Maffei emphasized that the situation is fluid and that he
is not certain what Riggio will do.
"No offer has been made ... It's very preliminary and we'll
see where Len (Riggio) goes with that," Maffei said.
Riggio, who owns nearly 30 percent of Barnes & Noble, has
not yet disclosed how much he would offer for the stores.
Barnes & Noble had put itself up for sale in 2010, but its
only offer came from Liberty. Liberty, however, backed down from
an initial $1 billion bid and instead bought $204 million in
preferred shares convertible for $17 apiece.
SIRIUS CEO SEARCH
Besides its investment in Barnes & Noble, Liberty has a
number of stakes in other companies, including Sirius XM, which
it became the majority owner of in January. Liberty and Sirius
had been engaged in a prolonged battle for control that led to
the departure of Sirius XM's CEO late last year.
Jim Meyer, a longtime executive at the satellite radio
provider, was named interim CEO in January and given a spot on
Sirius XM's board of directors.
Maffei said the search for a new CEO is ongoing and could
last another few months, as the search committee reviews strong
internal and external candidates. He said the ideal CEO would
have experience with a subscription model, a technology
background, direct marketing prowess and also understand the
content and talent side of the business.
Liberty has previously said that Meyer is one of executives
being considered. On the call, Maffei said Meyer had been
articulate at an investor conference earlier in the week.
Maxim Group analyst John Tinker said he was surprised the
search process has taken so long and said he thinks Meyer is
still a front runner.
"The subscriber model is very dear to Liberty's heart and
with Meyer's experience in that, he's certainly ticked all the
boxes," Tinker said.
Liberty has been tweaking its portfolio in recent months.
Liberty spun off the premium TV cable network Starz in
January. Starz beat analysts' fourth-quarter estimates on
Liberty has also increased its stake in concert promoter
Live Nation to about 27 percent. Maffei said in a statement that
it was pleased in the growth of ticket sales at Live Nation for
Liberty's revenue fell 52 percent to $467 million, compared
to $973 million a year ago.
The company said its operating income was $25 million,
compared to $293 million a year ago.
Liberty shares were flat at $105.55 per share after the
market closed while Barnes & Noble shares were also flat at