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Check Out Line: Burkle tells Barnes & Noble board to grow a backbone

August 30, 2010

Check out the latest salvo in the nasty battle over struggling bookseller Barnes & Noble.

Investor Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies thinks it’s high time the company’s directors stood up to Leonard Riggio, the chain’s chairman, founder and largest shareholder.

riggioBurkle, the company’s second-largest shareholder, launched a proxy war earlier this month to put three directors – including himself – on the board. 

Barnes & Noble told investors last week in a letter that Burkle is not qualified be a company director and that the billionaire just wants to grab control of the bookseller without rewarding shareholders. On Monday, it accused him of “mudslinging.”

Barnes & Noble recently reported a steeper-than-expected quarterly loss and said its proxy battle with Burkle would put it further in the red this year.

In its own letter to investors, Yucaipa said it has no intention of seizing control of the bookseller. The current board, it added, is “not willing to stand up to Leonard Riggio on your behalf and say ‘enough is enough’.”

Yucaipa called the Riggio’s defenses a smokescreen: ”They want to distract you from the real issues: their record of poor performance and their history of approving special treatment and related party transactions that benefit the Riggio family.”

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(Reuters photo)

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