Barnes & Noble surges after activist investor urges company to sell itself in letter evoking Cicero and Thomas Jefferson

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Barnes & Noble AP

Activist investor Sandell Asset Management Corp on Tuesday urged U.S. bookstore chain operator Barnes & Noble Inc to sell itself.

Sandell, which said it had accumulated a "meaningful" stake in Barnes & Noble, said the company could fetch a price of $12 per share or possibly higher in a "go-private" deal.

In a letter that evoked some of history's famous wordsmiths, Sandell said the company's " current approximately $520 million market value of Barnes & Noble is unconscionably low."

From the letter:

As you are Board members of a retailer whose existence depends on people's quest for knowledge, we trust you may be familiar with some of the following comments:

"A room without books is like a body without a soul" - Cicero

"When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes" - Erasmus

"I cannot live without books" - Thomas Jefferson

"I guess there are never enough books" - John Steinbeck

"Only in books do we learn what's really going on" - Kurt Vonnegut

We believe that millions of readers in the United States share - to varying degrees - the sentiments expressed in the above quotations."

Sandell said Barnes & Noble was the only "truly national bookstore chain" set to thrive with a brick-and-mortar model even as ecommerce gains more traction.

" It has become clear to us that all of the Company's stakeholders would be better served if Barnes & Noble were operated as a private company or as a division within a larger company, which would allow management to focus 100% of its attention on the Company's underlying operations," the letter said.

Shares of Barnes & Noble, which had a market value of $514.8 million as of Monday, were up 11% at $7.85 in early trading.

(Reuters editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar)

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