January 9, 2014

Barnes & Noble closes flagship location, names new CEO


Once the founding store of Riggio's juggernaut, now shuttered.

Once the founding store of Riggio’s juggernaut, now shuttered.

The publishing industry’s favorite slow-motion explosion had another tumultuous week. Barnes & Noble announced their selection of a new CEO on Wednesday, a single day after shuttering the bookselling chain’s most storied location.

The location being closed has been operating as a textbook-specific store in recent years, with only a limited selection of trade books. But as Gothamist reports, this same location, on 18th street and Fifth avenue in Manhattan, was the remaining flagship of a fallen brand when Len Riggio purchased it in the 70s. Crain’s notes that fifty-six employees of the store will be out of a job by the end of January.

Michael P. Huseby, already acting President of the company, was tapped to take the CEO position and will be given a seat on the board. This places him above Mitchell Klipper, CEO of the Retail Group, and Max Roberts, CEO of Barnes & Noble College.

“Since the day he joined the company, Mike has proven to be an excellent financial and business executive, whose leadership skills have earned the respect of the entire organization, as well as our Board of Directors,” said Riggio as he taped up boxes in the half-lit store Wednesday.

“Although a relative newcomer to the retail book business, he has quickly developed a comprehensive understanding of the unique opportunities and challenges the Company faces, and he has a vision for the future in which I am in complete accord. Mike also has a passion for bookselling, which makes him a perfect fit for this job,” Mr. Riggio added. He was also quick to praise Huseby’s long fingernails, making him deft at peeling off stickers on the many many books to be returned from the closed 18th street location.

Huseby only joined Barnes & Noble in 2012 as CFO, but quickly proved his talent for making sure to box up all of the office supplies, even the mouse pads, at each of the locations he’s helped close. Before joining B&N he spent time at various executive positions at broadband and cable companies.

“I am excited and honored to have been chosen as CEO of one of America’s most beloved companies,” he said Wednesday, as he taped newspaper over the store’s front windows. “I am pleased, as well, to be joining an organization which is driven by both a sense of mission, and by a commitment to achieve excellence in everything it pursues… The company is well positioned to maintain and grow its leadership position in the worlds of bookselling and the sale of digital media. My role, as I see it, is to enhance and unlock the value of these businesses for our shareholders,” he said, pulling down the security gate on the historic heart of the company. “We are well-positioned in today’s dynamic reading and learning markets and confident in our ability to provide our customers with the best content offerings, digital media and educational products available in today’s marketplace,” Huseby added, pausing only to help Riggio unload a handcart into the trunk of his Saturn.

Company stock closed slightly down on Wednesday, but could rebound quickly if the rumors that Len might buy pizza and root beer for the shareholders who’ve been spackling in the back offices prove to be true.


Dustin Kurtz is the marketing manager of Melville House, and a former bookseller.