January 15, 2009

Breaking news: Mass firing at B&N headquarters

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In a move that was expected but made suddenly overnight, Barnes & Noble laid off (previously known as “fired”) 100 people yesterday, or, as you prefer, eliminated 100 “positions” (formerly known as “people”), citing the 5.2% drop in sales during the holiday period (see this earlier MobyLIves report). A very brief and unattributed New York Times report (Hello, Motoko?) says CEO Steve Riggio claims “this was the first time in the company’s history that it had cut jobs.” A Shelf Awareness report (citing a Wall Street Journal report unavailable to non-subscribers) says Riggio explained in a statement that “The business climate in which we are operating is unprecedented, and therefore, the reduction in expenses is inevitable.” Accordingly, “B&N will take an after-tax charge of $2.5 million for the layoffs,” says the report. It also adds that at least B&N treated outgoing employees more generously than most: “an enhanced severance plan” will include “healthcare benefits for the next 12 months, outplacement counseling and transition seminars.”

Unreported so far except right here at MobyLives: Among those let go were executives at B&N’s publishing imprint, Sterling Publishing, including Philip Turner, (formerly of Carrol & Graf and pioneering indie Thunder’s Mouth Press), who’d been running Sterling imprint the Union Square Press.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives

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