After presiding over losses of hundreds of millions of dollars with a device-focused strategy that ended in tatters the past holiday season, Barnes & Noble ceo William Lynch has resigned effective immediately. Announced after the close of market on Monday, the official remarks made it sound as if Lynch was asked to leave; he says “I appreciate the opportunity to serve as CEO of this terrific company over the last three years.” Just four months ago in early March the company had amended and extended Lynch’s employment agreement to award him a cash bonus of $1.8 million for the Microsoft and Pearson agreements with Nook Media. Lynch was also provided a stock grant of another 300,000 shares which vest immediately if he has been terminated without cause or has left for “good reason.”
Stranger is that the answer provided by the already rudderless company is an internal adjustment of responsibilities that leaves BN with no chief executive officer at all and, according to spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating, “no immediate plans to name a CEO.” That is perhaps because, as she says, “the company is in a transition period.” Chairman Len Riggio’s interest in buying the consumer bookstores remains unresolved, as do the large strategic questions of what is left of the Nook Media business, who wants to own, and what are the pieces worth. In other words, it may be hard to put in place a new ceo for a company that could be split apart or taken private. When papers were created to set up a split of Nook Media and the Barnes & Noble stores, it was clear that Lynch was intended to serve as ceo of Nook if it became independent.
For now, Michael Huseby, brought in as chief financial officer in March 2012, has been named ceo of Nook Media LLC and president of Barnes & Noble, Inc. Controller Allen Lindstrom is promoted to cfo, reporting to Huseby, and Kanuj Malhotra moves up to cfo of Nook Media. Both Huseby and Barnes & Noble stores ceo Mitchell Klipper will report directly to chairman Len Riggio.
Riggio says in the announcement what’s hard to believe: “As the bookselling industry continues to undergo significant transformation, we believe that Michael, Mitchell and Max are the right executives to lead us into the future.” Riggio “added that the company is in the process of reviewing its current strategic plan and will provide an update when appropriate.” In the statement, Riggio also thanks Lynch “for helping transform Barnes & Noble into a leading digital content provider and for leading in the development of our award-winning line of Nook products.”