Ron Burkle (pictured) is once again a stockholder scorned, as his latest attempt to get a better foothold in Barnes & Noble's (BKS) stock has been denied. The book retailer's board responded to Burkle's January 28 letter complaining about its giving preferential treatment to the top company stakeholders and demanding to increase his stake to 37% without triggering the "poison pill" measure with a crystal-clear response that it's "unanimous in its view that there is absolutely no basis whatsoever for the allegations made."In the letter, filed with the SEC today, the B&N board reiterates that the "poison pill" measure -- otherwise known as the Stockholder Rights Plan -- was "intended to protect our shareholders from actions that are inconsistent with their best interests."
In response to Burkle's assertion that his "free and fair exercise of the shareholder franchise" was being impeded, the Board reminded Burkle that the Rights Plan would be submitted "for shareholder ratification within 12 months of its adoption" -- in other words, he and any other significant stakeholder could object to the poison pill until it was fully ratified, more or less in concert with B&N's annual shareholder meeting next fall.
The letter also attempts to correct some of Burkle's assumptions, noting that B&N's chairman, Leonard Riggio, and CEO, Steve Riggio, together hold 31% of the company's outstanding stock. For those keeping score at home, that percentage is evidently smaller than the combined holdings of Burkle's Yucaipa Cos., and of Aletheia Research and Management, which are also deep into the stock holdings of A&P. B&N also plans to file an amendment to the "poison pill" measure, explaining why the Riggios aren't subject to it.
While this move may stop Burkle for the time being, this is one billionaire who'll do whatever it takes to get something he wants -- in concert with however many stockholders he can rally to his side -- even if no one's quite sure what that is.
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