Liberty Media, a company with interests in a variety of media and communications companies, has made an offer to acquire Barnes & Noble at $17 per share in cash. The offer places the deal at just over $1 billion.

The bookseller last summer said it was seeking a possible sale.

The deal would be structured as a merger, says Liberty, and is primarily contingent on whether Barnes & Noble founding chairman Leonard Riggio will continue on in his leadership role and the status of his own equity position.

The deal would make Liberty’s equity stake equal to about 70 percent of Barnes & Noble and it plans to put about $500 million of its own cash toward the deal, depending on how much additional financing it can raise.

Liberty’s other interests include stakes in QVC, Expedia and Starz Entertainment. It also holds minority interests in Time Warner, Time Warner Cable and Sprint/Nextel.

The big booksellers have been hit hard by the digital economy. The Liberty deal comes on the heels of Borders’ filing for Chapter 11 protection in February.
Barnes & Noble full-year fiscal 2010 sales, which were reported last June, were $5.8 billion. Digital sales were up 24 percent compared to year prior, while store sales were down about 5 percent. Fiscal 2011 third quarter sales were $2.3 billion, up 7 percent versus same period last year.