Barnes & Noble’s clown-car operation is immensely entertaining to some in the industry but publishers aren’t amused.
The WSJ reports that publisher met with Len Riggio’s tailor to express their concern over the high turnover rate for B&N’s CEO position.
Book-publishing executives expressed concerns to B&N about continuing management instability at the retail giant and the direction of the business, in the wake of the sudden firing last month of Demos Parneros as chief executive.
Mr. Parneros was terminated without severance in July for violating company policies. The company said at the time that his dismissal was unrelated to issues of financial reporting or fraud, but offered no further guidance.
The next CEO will be Barnes & Noble’s sixth since 2013. During that stretch, the company’s sales have eroded significantly despite various turnaround strategies under multiple management teams, from store closures to stepped-up marketing of toys and gifts, to opening stores with restaurants.
Publishers relayed their concerns in meetings with Barnes & Noble in the weeks following Mr. Parneros’s exit, people familiar with the matter said. They indicated that they have a strong interest in Barnes & Noble running a healthy and stable business, to counteract the clout of Amazon.com Inc. in book retailing.
The invitations to the private meetings were extended by Leonard Riggio, the bookseller’s 77-year-old executive chairman and largest shareholder. He was joined by Timothy Mantel, the chief merchandising officer who is on the rise at the company, the people said. He is one of three executives who report directly to Mr. Riggio and are running the company until a new CEO is hired.
Riggio reportedly told publishers that he was fully committed to the company and had a plan to turn things around.
As anyone who has watched Barnes & Noble over the past few years can tell you, that plan consists of closing stores while hiring a new CEO every year and randomly trying new business plans such as opening restaurants, selling tchotchkes, talking about opening smaller stores, spouting buzzwords an investor calls to cover for their lack of direction, and generally throwing all their ideas against the wall to see what sticks.
While all of this is fascinating in a morbid way, it doesn’t change the fact that the emperor has no clothes.