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Michael Miller – Barnes & Noble Education 

Positioning BNED for future success 

Education is a fundamental pillar of society, playing a crucial role in shaping individuals, communities, and nations. It equips individuals with the necessary knowledge, skills and values to navigate life and make informed decisions.  

A well-educated population is better equipped to participate in the economy, engage in civic responsibilities, and promote a more inclusive and prosperous society. In the globalized world we live in today, education is essential for fostering understanding, empathy and cooperation among diverse cultures and communities, paving the way for a more peaceful and sustainable future. 

Michael Miller | Chief Legal Officer, EVP-Corporate Development & Affairs and Corporate Secretary | Barnes & Noble Education 

Michael Miller | Chief Legal Officer, EVP-Corporate Development & Affairs and Corporate Secretary | Barnes & Noble Education

Barnes & Noble Education is a leading solutions provider for the higher education industry, driving affordability, access and achievement at hundreds of academic institutions nationwide and ensuring millions of students are equipped for success in the classroom and beyond. To make that happen, the organization relies on people like Michael Miller, the company’s chief legal officer, executive vice president of corporate development and affairs, and corporate secretary, who has played a vital role in shaping the company’s trajectory over the past seven years.  

In his multifaceted role, Miller oversees all legal matters and serves as a crucial member of the executive committee, managing HR, corporate development and affairs, corporate communications, and government relations. His leadership extends far beyond legal responsibilities, demonstrating his capability to handle diverse leadership functions within the company. 

“In the legal department for Barnes & Noble Education, we’re not just shaping the future of our legal strategy but also pioneering innovation and growth initiatives that drive our company forward. It’s about navigating complexities, fostering collaboration, and empowering teams to achieve excellence,” Miller says. 

Strategic partnerships and growth initiatives 

One of Miller’s significant achievements was leading the negotiations for a partnership with Fanatics and Lids in 2020. This strategic partnership aimed to enhance BNED’s merchandising capabilities and drive financial returns through market growth and merchandising opportunities. Miller’s expertise in M&A, his understanding of the college bookstore business, and his negotiation skills were crucial in finalizing this partnership, laying the groundwork for future collaborations to enhance the college retail experience. 

Michael Miller | Chief Legal Officer, EVP-Corporate Development & Affairs and Corporate Secretary | Barnes & Noble Education 

“While the financial incentives benefit most M&A transactions, it is critical to understand the culture and businesses of transaction partners to maximize value and benefits to all stakeholders. Appreciating the culture of the Fanatics and Lids cultures and educating them on BNED’s business and culture has been critical to the success of the strategic partnership as it has matured over the past couple of years,” Miller explains.  

Another notable project led by Miller involved helping to negotiate a milestone agreement with Immersion Corporation and certain B&N shareholders, which closed in June 2024, focused on equity and refinancing transactions to strengthen BNED’s financial position and accelerate its business transformation. Miller’s operating and strategic experience and understanding of the dynamics at play amongst transaction participants were key to navigating this complex deal, demonstrating his commitment to driving long-term growth and financial stability for the company and its employees and customers. 

In addition to these projects, Miller partnered with segment leadership to develop, launch, and manage BNED’s direct-to-consumer digital subscription-based study and writing product, Bartleby (r), resulting from organic development and opportunistic technology acquisitions. These initiatives led to establishing the Digital Student Solutions reporting segment for BNED. Miller had the opportunity to lead the negotiations and execution of the successful sale of Bartleby and the DSS segment to Learneo, Inc. in May 2023, yielding positive returns for stakeholders.  

“I needed to wear two hats—operational and legal- to ensure that the product was developed correctly, marketed effectively and truly differentiated from other products in the market while maintaining rigorous data privacy standards,” Miller says.  

Miller’s leadership extends beyond financial and operational successes. He is committed to developing his team, empowering them to grow in their careers, and ensuring they feel valued. This approach aligns with BNED’s overarching goals of positioning the company for future success, accelerating the adoption of equitable access programs, and delivering best-in-class experiences to higher education clients. 

With the completion of BNED’s reorganization and recapitalization, BNED is well positioned for a new era of growth, continuing to deliver innovative services and solutions to institutions and students.  

Leadership in action 

Miller leads a tight-knit and highly effective team. Alongside two seasoned lawyers, a manager of legal affairs and a senior paralegal, Miller oversees all legal aspects of BNED’s operations, demonstrating his commitment to excellence and efficiency. 

Despite recruitment and retention challenges, particularly during economic uncertainty, Miller remains dedicated to his team’s growth and development. He actively coaches them to excel within BNED’s dynamic environment, fostering a culture of collaboration and continuous improvement. 

In addition to his legal responsibilities, Miller is crucial in leading HR, corporate communications and affairs, and corporate development. This multifaceted leadership role showcases his ability to navigate complex challenges and drive strategic initiatives across the organization. 

For Miller, the most rewarding aspect of his role lies in his responsibilities. He thrives on the opportunity to tackle diverse issues facing BNED, leveraging his skills and experience to provide innovative solutions and guide the company through its strategic objectives. 

Reflecting on his journey, Miller emphasizes the importance of teamwork and leadership in overcoming adversity. He recognizes the invaluable contributions of his team members and believes that their collective expertise is instrumental in the organization’s success. Through effective collaboration and a shared commitment to excellence, Miller and his team continue to drive positive outcomes for BNED. 

“Together with my colleagues, we navigate challenges, foster growth, and drive innovation across our operations. Our commitment to excellence and teamwork fuels our success, enabling us to overcome obstacles and achieve our strategic objectives. It’s a journey I’m proud to be on, and I’m continuously inspired by the dedication and expertise of our team members,” Miller says. 

From law student to corporate leader 

Miller’s interest in law began to take shape during his college years. Initially torn between pursuing medicine or law, he naturally gravitated towards the legal field once he arrived at school. This decision set him on a path of academic and professional excellence, beginning with a degree in English from the College of the Holy Cross. He then pursued his JD at the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University and completed his MBA from Long Island University as a way to bring even more value and business acumen to his role.  

Miller’s career began in private practice, where he spent nearly five years honing his legal skills. Despite gaining substantial experience, he realized that he was missing an important piece of the puzzle—an understanding of what drove clients to their M&A decisions.  

“This realization sparked my desire to gain operational experience and be part of the decision-making process on the business side,” Miller recalls.  

Seeking to bridge this gap, Miller transitioned to an in-house role, joining Symbol Technologies, Inc. where he spent over five years, played a critical role in the organization and business transformation of Symbol and the successful sale of Symbol to Motorola. This position gave him invaluable insights into corporate legal affairs, finance and business operations, shaping his approach to legal and corporate governance matters. 

His next significant role was with Monster Worldwide, where he served as EVP, general counsel and corporate secretary for over nine years. In this capacity, he navigated the company through various legal and corporate challenges, further establishing his reputation as a seasoned legal and corporate affairs professional. In April 2017, Miller joined Barnes & Noble Education as chief legal officer, EVP-corporate development and affairs and corporate secretary.  

Beyond his professional achievements, Miller is a devoted family man. He and his wife are parents to five children, one girl and four boys, who are involved in various activities. Three of their children have either become or are on track to become student-athletes in college. The Miller family enjoys boating, spending summers at the beach, and skiing during the winter, creating cherished memories together. 

“As I look back on my career experiences, I am proud to have been part of teams that were tasked with navigating challenging business and regulatory circumstances to stabilize, rebuild, and transform businesses for future success. I have been lucky to work with talented and dedicated people to achieve successful outcomes for shareholders, customers, and employees,” he says.  

 

Published on: July 2, 2024

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