December 5, 2014

Barnes & Noble and Microsoft are over


heart cookieBarnes & Noble and Microsoft are surpassing the Gwyneth Paltrow/Chris Martin story as this year’s juiciest breakup. After two years of marriage, B&N and Microsoft have officially split, and their breakup letters made it into every national news source.

“As the respective business strategies of each company evolved, we mutually agreed that it made sense to terminate the agreement,” a Microsoft spokesperson said, sobbing softly into a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.

You may have read here that Microsoft and B&N started making googly eyes at each other, batting their eyelashes, holding hands after class last May. At the end of June, Barnes & Noble decided to consciously uncouple from the Nook, and we’ve covered their ups and down here before (see also hereherehereherehere, and here).

Their turbulent affair can be traced back even further, to 2012, when Microsoft bought a 17.6 percent stake in B&N for $300 million. It seemed like the relationship could last: Microsoft had Nook apps for Windows products, and Nook finally had a tech-savvy investor/father figure. Yesterday, B&N decided to buy out Microsoft’s stake for $125 million.

John Tinker of the Maxim Group told the New York Times, “Investors have a problem with Barnes & Noble at the moment, which is, are you a retailer, are you a technology company, or are you a college bookstore company? It’s a very complicated situation, and clearing up things with Microsoft begins to simplify things.”

Once B&N gets a breakup haircut and changes its style a little bit, Tinker thinks this breakup will make the company into an attractive “acquisition.” (Oh my god, not only are corporations people, we’ve just objectified one.)

But this breakup left B&N pretty broke. 🙁 B&N shares dropped 14.3% after releasing quarterly profits, which had dropped a disappointing 2.6 percent. Sole custody of the Nook cost B&N $62.4 million in cash and $2.7 million in shares. You know that one hurt.

Rumor has it B&N is totally bouncing back, feels better than ever, and plans on reinventing itself with a new style blog called Great Oogly Ohyeah Products. Now it’s waiting for an opportunity to loan Meryl Streep its oven and show Martha Stewart what’s what.


Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.