Michael Glickstein, owner of New York asset management firm G Asset Management LLC, is alleged to have gained $168,000 through a bid to buy Barnes & Noble stock that his company did not have the money to finance. Glickstein has repaid $175,000 to cover these allegedly ‘ill gotten’ gains plus interest, which was obtained through spikes in Barnes & Noble share prices that came about as a result of the fraudulent takeover bid. This was apparently prompted by a press release about the matter released by the company, according to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
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In addition to repaying the $175,000 sum, Glickstein’s company has also agreed to be censured by the SEC, to pay a civil penalty of $100,000, and has been banned from trading in the securities industry for a minimum of five years.
The Fraudulent Bid
The original bid took place in February 2015, and was announced to involve G Asset Management buying 51% of Barnes & Noble’s stock at a price 30% above the value. A second bid was in place to gain 51% of the Barnes & Noble Nook business – the bookseller’s e-reader and e-book division, which is a competitor to the Amazon Kindle. Glickstein’s offer was reportedly to buy the majority, and therefore take over Barnes & Noble or Nook, at a price of $22 per share.
However, since G Asset Management only had $3 million in assets, there was no way they would have been able to actually go through with the deal should Barnes & Noble have agreed to let them buy the shares. For this reason, it is alleged that the takeover bid was a fabrication designed to help boost share prices for the book retailer.
On the day news of the bid broke, stock in the book company jumped by 10%. That day the price closed at $17.69, up 5.4% on what it opened at, though of course still below the $22 Glickstein was supposedly offering.
Barnes & Noble’s Current Struggles
While it is one of the best known retailers of books in the world, Barnes & Noble has been struggling in recent years due to changes in the industry. Where book sales in stores on the whole are going down due to alternatives like e-books, and the wealth of free things available on the internet for people to read, even avid readers are spending less on hardback and paperback books like the ones sold in their retail locations. The Nook part of the business is also in direct competition with other products which have a bigger e-reader market share, and in secondary competition with the entire tablet market. The New York based retailer has seen losses quarter on quarter for several years.
It could be that their involvement in a fraudulent takeover bid will be seen by some as an attempt to make a business with declining sales look like a more positive acquisition than other market intelligence would suggest.