Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei, whose company owns about 17% of Barnes & Noble, doesn’t seem impressed by this week’s disclosure by the book store chain’s founder Leonard Riggio that he may try to buy its retail operation. “It’s very preliminary,” Maffei told analysts today. “We’ll see where Len goes with it.” Maffei speculated that Riggio may have been legally bound by SEC rules to express an interest in buying just to keep the option open. “It was very logical that he would want to be interested,” Maffei says. He adds that he’ll “wait to see what happens” before saying whether Liberty might support or oppose a takeover. Riggio’s disclosure sure looked serious. He said on Monday that his purchase price “would be negotiated with the Board” and its advisers and “is currently contemplated” to include cash and assumption of debt. The company turned the negotiations over to a special board committee and hired outside financial and legal advisers. Maffei doesn’t sound like he wants to sell (which would also be a smart way to help negotiate up the price). Barnes & Noble’s bricks-and-mortar stores have “probably performed better than most outside observers would have thought, and better than we have thought” since 2011 when Liberty first invested. “We’re of the view that there will be retail bookstores around for a long time,” he says. “We really thought of ourselves as seeing value there early.”

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