Barnes & Noble CEO Steve Riggio Steps Down


Barnes & Noble (BKS) Chief Executive Officer Steve Riggio (pictured) is stepping down from his position, which he has held since 2002, though he'll remain vice chairman and stay "actively involved with the company." Taking over as CEO is William Lynch, who has been president for a little over a year and has been leading B&N's e-commerce efforts.

B&N has also promoted Chief Operating Officer Mitchell Kipper, who'll now be CEO of B&N's retail group, which includes the bookseller's retail business and its recently acquired college bookstores. As industry newsletter Shelf Awareness points out, this means B&N will effectively have an e-CEO and a retail CEO.

In a statement, Chairman Len Riggio -- Steve's brother and the company's biggest shareholder -- said Lynch "came to us as a skillful leader in e-commerce who, in a short period of time, has done a superb job in quickly establishing Barnes & Noble as a major player in e-commerce and digital content. Given the dynamic nature of the book industry, William is uniquely qualified to lead the company's transition to multi-channel distribution and drive the continuing expansion of our e-commerce platform, e-books and other digital content and products."

What's not known now is how the management shakeup will affect the current crop of stakeholders, three of whom -- Michael Del Giudice, Lawrence Zilavy and Leonard Riggio -- are up for reelection. At the moment, both Riggios together hold a majority stake in B&N, which greatly rankles Ron Burkle, who has spent the last few months buying up stock in a bid to gain a stronger foothold within the company.

A "poison pill" measure and several pointed letters have kept Burkle below a 20% threshold, but as he made clear in a recent interview with Bloomberg BusinessWeek, such actions aren't about to stop him from his goals. "When Ron gets pushback, he pushes back harder," former Universal Studios Chief Frank Biondi told the magazine. Burkle may well have been an unwitting influence on B&N's management shuffle.