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Barnes & Noble to consider takeover bid from founder

Leonard Riggio, who also serves as the bookseller's chairman, plans to make an offer for Barnes & Noble's retail locations and online store but not its Nook e-reader and tablet business.

Leonard Riggio's bid for Barnes & Noble won't include the Nook business. James Martin/CNET
Barnes & Noble may have found a savior in its founder.

The company, which has struggled in the changing bookselling market, disclosed that Leonard Riggio plans to offer to buy the retail side of Barnes & Noble's operations. Riggio has not yet made a formal bid but said in a regulatory filing that he plans to negotiate a price with the board for Barnes & Noble's 689 stores and Web site. The bulk of the purchase would be made with cash, Riggio said. He is the company's largest shareholder with a 30 percent stake.

The deal would exclude Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader and tablet business, though, increasing the odds the the company would be split into two businesses.

Barnes & Noble said in a press release that a strategic committee of three independent board directors will evaluate the proposal. The company didn't provide a deadline for the the review.

A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment further to CNET.

Barnes & Noble has been struggling as more consumers opt to buy books digitally instead of through brick-and-mortar stores. It has its own digital reading operations, but it also faces tough competition from Amazon, Apple, and others. While Barnes & Noble has expanded its tablet and e-reader line, sales of its Nooks have fallen short of expectations, including during the key holiday season.

The company earlier this month said it expects a higher loss from its Nook business for its fiscal 2013, which ends in April.

The bookstore operator has been exploring the options for its tablet and e-reader business, including possibly spinning off the operations. It also has formed partnerships for its Nook business with MicrosoftandPearson.

The New York Times reported yesterday that Barnes & Noble will "move away" from building its own hardware to a strategy that focuses on licensing content to third-party developers. The report said the company isn't completely getting out of hardware but that it's going to lean a lot more on its content catalog.

Riggio noted in today's regulatory filing that he "plans to make the proposal in order to facilitate the company's evaluation of its previously announced review of strategic options for the separation of its investment in Nook Media LLC."