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Barnes & Noble stock slides after key investor unloads shares

Liberty Media Corporation

Barnes & Noble Inc. shares were sharply lower Thursday after a key investor said it was slashing its stake in the bookstore chain.

Barnes & Noble, which operates 663 stores in 50 states, announced Thursday that Liberty Media Corp. had decided to sell about 90% of its shares of the company.

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.

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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.

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