The founder of Barnes & Noble Inc. has announced that he will retire as executive chairman in September after 45 years with the company.
Leonard Riggio bought Barnes & Noble in 1971, which was then a single struggling store in Manhattan. Over the next three decades he expanded the company across America, opening multi-floor superstores with sometimes more than 100,000 titles on sale.
In an interview with the New York Times, Riggio, now 75, said that he initially intended to retire at 40. He said: “I had never planned to be a business person for life. I had always wanted to do something different after I’d been in business for a while and made some money.”
Riggio will remain the company’s largest individual shareholder with 17.5%, and has said he has no intention to sell his stock. He will also keep a seat on the company’s board. Paul B. Guenther has been appointed to serve as non-executive chairman upon Riggio stepping down.
Riggio added: "I’ve done everything I have wanted to do in business and now it is time for me to pursue the many other endeavors related to my philanthropic and social interests. I intend to remain a shareholder of Barnes & Noble for years to come. I have complete confidence in the management team and their ability to take this company to the next level of bookselling and I have every intention of offering my help and support. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with our board of directors and I couldn’t be more pleased that Paul has stepped up to take on this new leadership role.”
B&N has experienced a trying period over the last few years, with 80 Barnes & Noble stores closing across the country in the last six years and three different chief executives leading the company in that time.
Despite the turbulence, Riggio is still confident for the future of Barnes & Noble. He said: “The company’s in a very good position. We’ll continue to be the best bookseller we can be.”