Barnes & Noble is in the news for once again stopping the music on its game of CEO musical chairs, naming its fourth CEO in four years. This time it’s Demos Parneros, who had only been five months into his tenure as B&N’s Chief Operating Officer. (We previously mentioned him in November, when he had just been hired as COO.)
The funny thing is that the URL for that Fortune story ends in “barnes-noble-ceo-2,” which means that the portion of the headline used in the URL duplicates that of an earlier story. Is there any more fitting metaphor for the “lather, rinse, repeat” nature of B&N’s CEO selection process?
I have to tip my hat to Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader, who holds that “In the Future, Everyone Will be the CEO of Barnes & Noble for Fifteen Minutes.” “I have signed up to be the CEO of B&N starting on 5 March 2019,” Hoffelder writes. “I see it less as a job than as my entry into a betting pool. If B&N goes under on my watch, I will get to steal the office furniture.” I wish I’d thought of that. (Maybe I can put my name on the list for March 2020?)
Another funny thing is that I had already been thinking about failed retail operations due to a Facebook post a friend made a few days ago. The post went, “Today’s riots may flop; anarchists couldn’t get the day off from Blockbuster Video.” I pointed out that Blockbuster had closed its last stores in 2013, and was accused of spoiling the joke. (“There was supposed to be a joke there? ” I replied.)
Then today, another friend passed along a Quartz story pointing out that a handful of Blockbuster stores still exist. No longer franchisees, they now license the Blockbuster brand name instead. The brand is owned by Dish Network, who bought the chain when it went bankrupt in 2010. The stores exist in rural areas like Oregon and Alaska, where it’s easier to compete with the attractions of modern video streaming. In fact, some of their customers don’t have or can’t get home Internet access. Apparently high bandwidth charges in Alaska also help keep video rental stores competitive there.
Kevin Daymude, a manager at a Blockbuster in Alaska, where there are nine franchises, has a hard time convincing people he really works there. “I can’t tell you how many business cards I’ve given out to people ‘cause they literally do not believe that I’m from Blockbuster,” he told CBS News.
Of course, video rental and bookstore operations do have a number of key differences. High bandwidth charges wouldn’t hit ebooks as hard, for one thing. And the bookstore portion of B&N actually seems to be doing well for itself, despite the Nook’s problems and the corporation’s difficulty finding a CEO who’ll last longer than a Spinal Tap drummer.
But still, it’s darkly amusing to imagine a handful of Barnes & Nobles existing out on the rural fringes of America…licensing the brand name from Amazon or Google or Apple or whatever other company bought it up after it collapsed.
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Look into a guy named Allen Lindstrom, there at B&N since 2007 who has made some of the worst financial decisions there. CFO and was CEO for a year, probably also COO. Lindstrom appears to be one of the main financial “assets” in their management who has presided over the decline of B&N to the point that it had to be sold to Waterstone’s books in 2019, in order to not declare bankruptcy. A lifeboat. But mismanagement still exists there and Lindstrom remains one of the unholy fools running B&N.