Barnes & Noble Names Huseby CFO

Former Cablevision finance chief will aid retailer’s digital push.

Barnes & Noble Inc. named former cable television executive Michael Huseby chief financial officer as the largest U.S. bookstore chain shifts toward becoming more of a technology company.

Huseby, formerly CFO at Cablevision Systems Corp., will oversee Barnes & Noble’s capital structure and help boost its digital business, the New York-based company said today in a statement. Huseby replaces Joseph Lombardi, who resigned in October. Allen Lindstrom had been CFO on an interim basis.

While Barnes & Noble operates about 700 retail locations and more than 600 college bookstores, its future growth lies in electronic books. The company started its digital business in 2009 by selling e-books and releasing the Nook e-reader. The company projects the Nook business to generate $1.5 billion in sales in the fiscal year ending April 30, accounting for about 20 percent of its total revenue.

The retailer sells the second most e-books in the U.S. after Amazon.com Inc. Barnes & Noble has had to sacrifice profits by spending on developing devices, advertising and building boutiques in stores to showcase the Nook. It posted a net loss of $70.6 million in the 12 months through January.

The losses and concern that the retailer won’t be able to maintain spending to compete with Amazon and Apple Inc., which sells e-books through devices such as the iPad, has weighed on shares. Barnes & Noble has declined 7.5 percent this year through March 9, when it closed at $13.39. The shares reached a 52-week high of $21.06 on June 20.

Huseby, who left Cablevision in June, joins Barnes & Noble as it considers separating the Nook unit into a separate company with the goal of getting investors to give it the higher valuation of a tech company. The company is also considering offering more detailed financial reporting on the Nook’s performance. Huseby was part of spinning off two Cablevision subsidiaries, the company said.

Sales from Barnes & Noble’s digital unit, which includes Nook tablet computers, content and accessories, rose 38 percent to $542 million in the quarter ended Jan. 28, while total sales advanced 5 percent to $2.44 billion.

 

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