Whither B&N? CEO Resigns Two Weeks After Ominous Quarterly Report.

William Lynch, the architect of Barnes & Noble’s sputtering digital strategy, has stepped down as CEO, stoking speculation of an imminent split between the bookseller’s Nook and retail businesses.

In a statement announcing Lynch’s resignation, the company did not indicate any plans to name a new chief executive. Its CFO Michael P. Huseby has been appointed  CEO of NOOK Media and president of Barnes & Noble, reporting directly to Leonard Riggio, Executive Chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Riggio, who has made an offer to buy B&N’s trade retail business, said in the statement, “the Company is in the process of reviewing its current strategic plan and will provide an update when appropriate.”

Lynch’s departure follows a disastrous quarterly financial report released June 25th that showed losses from its Nook business more than doubled compared with the same period the previous year and its retail store earnings fell by nearly 24%. The report attributed some of the quarterly losses to decreased sales of Nook devices, but “digital content sales” (mostly ebooks) decreased 8.9% for the fourth quarter. Although B&N reported that its digital content sales increased 16% for the full year, B&N’s market share fell sharply: ebook  sales overall rose 44% in 2012, according to BookStats figures.

The decline of the Nook was a disappointment for publishers who once saw it as a viable rival to Amazon’s Kindle. A sale of Nook Media could mean a new life for the business. Though at this point, both the digital unit and bricks and mortar stores face uncertain futures.

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