Barnes & Noble, which operates 663 stores in 50 states, announced Thursday that
Liberty Media, which had been considered one of the chain's biggest backers, bought a 17% stake in 2011. After the sale, it will hold less than 2%.
Barnes & Noble shares were down $3.31, or 15%, to $18.80 at 10:30 a.m. PDT.
The news comes as Barnes & Noble tries to navigate through the rapidly changing world for books and media.
The company tried to put a positive spin on the news. Chairman Leonard Riggio said Liberty's reduced ownership "gives the company greater flexibility to pursue various strategic options."
He also said that "Liberty's decision to retain a portion of its investment and have active involvement on our board underscores Liberty's ongoing commitment to Barnes & Noble."
As a result of Liberty's reduced ownership, the firm will no longer have the right to elect two preferred member to Barnes & Noble's board, the retailer said in a statement.
The sale of the shares is expected to settle next week.