A 143 year legacy will soon be coming to an end after it was announced last week that Waterstones has bought Blackwell’s, the UK’s biggest independent bookshop chain. This will mean that Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, Foyles and Blackwell’s will all belong to the US hedge fund company Elliott Investment Management.
About the acquisition, Blackwell’s owner and president Toby Blackwell said:
“After 143 years of family ownership, finding a new home for our business and our wonderful booksellers, has been an extraordinary challenge. Waterstones have demonstrated in their acquisition of Foyles most recently, that they understand the advantages and benefits of holding diverse iconic bookselling brands in their portfolio. I view them not just as a buyer of the business, but as the right buyer at the right time. This is a positive outcome for Waterstones, Blackwell’s and all our customers in the UK and abroad, who will still be able to enjoy the individual nature of what both brands offer. I would like to thank our chairman and board and all of our fantastic staff, past and present, for everything they’ve done to uphold the Blackwell’s name over the years. I wish everyone well with this new chapter.”
While I’m relieved to learn that all 18 of Blackwell’s bookstores will remain open for now, it’s not likely that the new hedge fund overlords will allow them to retain their indie identity. In fact, it’s likely that Blackwell bookshops will slowly disappear from cities and towns around the UK, or replace a well curated selection of books with gifts, toys, souvenirs, and general tat.