Barnes & Noble, Inc. founder Leonard Riggio, 75, announced he will retire in September from his position as executive chairman — after the annual shareholder meeting — though he intends to remain on the company’s board of directors. Riggio still controls 17.5 percent of Barnes & Noble’s shares (with Abrams Capital Management as the company’s second-largest holder, now with almost 14 percent of the stock). Paul Guenther, a board member since 2015 and former president of Paine Webber, will serve as BN’s nonexecutive chairman after Riggio’s retirement.
“I’m no longer going to be in charge. I’m done with that. I’m done with being top banana,” Riggio told the WSJ, adding that he began pulling back in January. (Riggio actually left the position of ceo — the top banana at most companies — in 2002.) “I found peace with my decision…The whole identity crisis comes in. ‘Who am I? How do I leave here?’ All that stuff comes into your head after you spend so many years in one place.”
Separately, Riggio says to the NYT about the company’s failure to prevail in ebooks: “We’re great booksellers; we know how to do that. We weren’t constituted to be a technology company.” Riggio adds, “The company’s in a very good position. We’ll continue to be the best bookseller we can be.”
In a formal statement, Riggio comments: “I intend to remain a shareholder of Barnes & Noble for years to come. I have complete confidence in the management team and their ability to take this Company to the next level of bookselling and I have every intention of offering my help and support. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our board of directors and I couldn’t be more pleased that Paul has stepped up to take on this new leadership role.”