B&N Just Lynched Their CEO and Left His Job Empty

barnes_noblelogoDo you know how I (and many others) have been saying that B&N needed to make radical changes to right the company before it was too late? Today Barnes & Noble finally took a step in the right direction. Barnes & Noble has fired Captain Edward Smith Bill Lynch, and what's even more surprising is that they haven't replaced him with anyone.

The new organization chart for B&N now has 2 division heads (Nook Media/B&N College, B&N Retail Group) under the command of Len Riggio, the Chairman of the Board - and largest stockholder, BTW.

Lynch has been with B&N since 2009 and the CEO since 2010. During that time he took one of the publishing industry's best hope to counter Amazon and ground it into the dust. Or at least he is getting the blame; I'm not convinced he deserves sole responsibility. Lynch oversaw the rise of the Nook and its spinoff in mid 2012 to form Nook Media. Microsoft took a $600 million investment in Nook Media, which was briefly believed to be worth upwards of a billion and a half dollars. But after a disastrous holiday season much of the value vanished.

Update: One commenter is disputing whether Lynch was fired. Let's look at the facts, shall we? He left the day his resignation was announced, only 4 months after signing a new contract. Yep, he was fired.

The press release also mentions that B&N's CFO has changed jobs; Michael Huseby is now the CEO of Nook Media. Huseby became the CFO in March 2012 after leaving Cablevision. Max J. Roberts will stay on as head of B&N College, where he will report to Huseby. Mitchell Klipper will remain the CEO of the Retail Store Group, and Allen Lindstrom will assume the role of CFO.

Well holy shit.

Riggio has just managed to pull of a coup. It's a shame that this couldn't have happened sooner, but at least there's a chance that this reorganization might save the company. Do you suppose this might be Riggio's first step towards his plan to split off the retail stores and take them private?

I don't know, but I do hope this is the first step in thew right direction.

When I wrote about B&N's year end financial report a while back I made an offhand comment about B&N going bankrupt next year.That wasn't just flippancy; I see it as a real possibility.  And it still could happen even though Lynch is gone.

About Nate Hoffelder (11473 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

10 Comments on B&N Just Lynched Their CEO and Left His Job Empty

  1. The Bethesda store seemed like a ghost town with so few staff on it last Sunday. Saying that everyone was helpful and I spent more money than I should.

    • This past weekend is part of the most popular vacation time of the year, the July 4th week. So that may or may not mean anything. All retail is down in general this week.

  2. Lynch resigned or was eased out amicably; he was not fired. Fired CEOs are not quoted in the press release detailing the company reorganisation with glowing words for the company’s future.

    B&N stated months ago they were working on a transition to split the company and that is exactly what this reorg is a prelude to. Lynch was a digital guru, in theory, and brought skill sets to the company the B&N, as a retail book seller, didn’t have. He probably did as good a job as anyone might have — given the limited resources of B&N and the ongoing soap opera of the senior shareholder buying and selling parts of the business to himself. The fact that Liberty Capital walked away at the last minute from buying B&N outright tells you all you need to know about Riggio’s “effectiveness” as company steward.

    We’ll just have to wait a few more weeks to see what the new dual company looks like. While B&N retail has some debts, its also has decent (if alarmingly dwindling) cash flow; it can easily be around for years. Talking up bankruptcy is way premature — but that assumes they do something drastic about the money pit of Nook Media and stop the bleeding there by selling it off or merging with a patient, wealthy investor.

    • Alarmingly dwindling cash flow? B&N Retail’s EBITDA cash flow in recent years has been increasing, from $259 million in fiscal 2011 to $322 million in fiscal 2012 to $374 million in fiscal 2013.

    • I would say nice things too if my parachute were as golden as his. And he didn’t say those things; the words were put into his mouth.

      Lynch left the day his resignation was announced, only 4 months after signing a new contract:

      That looks to me like he was fired .

      • At that high a level on the corporate ladder, whether you’re “fired” or just “asked to leave” doesn’t make a lot of difference. People don’t say bad things about each other at that level, at least not as much, because it makes it harder for them to get a position somewhere else or hire someone else. And, as you say, the golden parachute doesn’t exactly hurt.

  3. Lynch fired or not doesn’t change the fact B&N still lacks direction on how to maintain store front revenues and keep their digital expansion from collapsing. Nook is pretty much dead even if they outsource the manufacturing. It has no brand awareness outside of their existing customers and zero expansion from this point on. Why it took them 3-yrs to realize that fact, still makes me ponder.

    I do not wish any one ill nor am I celebrating Lynch bring ousted. I think they just need to pin this on someone and he was that guy. Had they realized the faulty device strategy early on, they could have cut the monetary lost a lot sooner.

  4. And what also amazes me is how poorly the child features are promoted. I created a profile for one of the kids of our staff who came into the office and she was happy as a clam playing on it all morning.

    That’s a big advantage over the other kid tablets out there (excluding Amazon of course)

  5. Alas, the “firing” doesn’t go far enough. Without the “firing” of Riggio, it will make little difference what other “firings” occur. All of upper management needs to be retired. I’m not convinced that a high school student couldn’t provide more vision for the future than Riggio.

    • I agree with the management teams needs a bigger shake up but you won’t be able to find anyone to fill those critical roles anytime soon and experience matters (though, I’m not convince a Cablevision guys is the right person). The biggest problem with publishing is there aren’t enough experienced management left that still believes in the business. IF Penguin and RandomHouse felt such an urge to merge just to stay competitive, it tells you something about the state of the industry.

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