New York City In an unexpected move, Barnes & Noble promoted the head of its e-commerce division to chief executive. The announcement comes weeks after investor Ron Burkle accused its board of protecting the interests of its controlling family when it blocked his attempt to raise his stake. The company said William Lynch, 39, will succeed Steve Riggio as chief executive. Riggio will stay with the company as vice chairman.
Industry analysts viewed the announcement as a sign that the nation’s largest bookseller is embracing a digital future. Lynch, who launched the company's Nook electronic reader, joined Barnes & Noble in February 2009 without any experience in the book business. He had most recently been executive VP for marketing at HSN.com.
Steve Riggio, his brother and chairman Leonard Riggio, and other insiders own about 31% of the company's shares.
In January, investor Burkle, whose investment firm Yucaipa Cos. owns 18.7% in Barnes & Noble, had asked the board for permission to double his stake in the company without triggering the poison pill provision.
However, the board rejected the request.
The company also said it promoted COO Mitchell Klipper to CEO of its retail group, which includes both the general retail and college bookstores.