Sheedeh Moayery – Barnes & Noble
- Written by: Fatima Taha
- Produced by: Cherie Scott & Zachary Brann
- Est. reading time: 5 mins
A good tale takes time to develop.
In the case of Sheedeh Moayery, it’s taken a decade and a half to help write the story of Barnes & Noble, the latest chapter being the acquisition of B&N by Elliot Advisors Limited in 2019. That was just a few years after Elliot had acquired the largest retail bookseller in the United Kingdom, Waterstones.
According to Moayery, being under ownership of Elliot has helped B&N adjust as the U.S. market for print books and traditional bookstores grows more challenging. Despite being acquired, the bookseller is still operated through its pre-acquisition B&N workforce.
When Moayery was hired as counsel in March 2008, B&N was still a year away from taking the plunge into the e-Book market. In 2009, it launched NOOK, following the acquisition of an e-reading platform that allowed consumers to read e-Books, digital comics, newspapers, magazines and other electronic publications.
A proprietary hand-held electronic device soon followed. Fifteen years later, Moayery is the senior director, associate general counsel and assistant secretary—and B&N continues to grow, with approximately 600 stores and an e-bookstore that now holds over 4.5 million e-books and other electronic content.
B&N remains a brick-and-mortar powerhouse, recently adding 130 retail locations through its acquisition of Paper Source. It also relaunched its publishing subsidiary, Union Square & Co. Many of these changes were made possible with Moayery’s assistance on carefully chosen and complex acquisitions.
“I’m personally not a huge fan of the term ‘deal junkie,’ but that’s what I’ve been called on occasion, and I have to agree that it fits,” Moayery tells Vanguard with a laugh. “I’m the legal department’s mergers and acquisitions expert and the recent acquisition of Paper Source was no different.”
Several new pages in the M&A book
In 2021, Moayery and her team were tasked with helping Elliot acquire Paper Source. As she quickly discovered, the company had filed for bankruptcy in 2021 due to its acquisition of Papyrus, another stationery retailer that itself had filed for bankruptcy.
“Two bankruptcies are certainly cause for consternation, but I knew from years of practicing M&A at big law firms that bankruptcies also present opportunities,” she says.
Paper Source was just such an opportunity, giving B&N both more products and real estate. However, as Moayery explains, wading through the acquisition documents for the deal and conducting due diligence were the easier parts of the process.
The hard work came after the deal closed, with Moayery and the leadership team integrating each company’s departments of information technology, operations, finance, legal, human resources, distribution, customer service and merchandising. Through a series of complex internal corporate transactions, Paper Source is now a subsidiary of B&N.
“It’s all hands-on deck right now as we’re aligning operations at the moment and hope to be finished in 2023,” Moayery says.
Compliance is key
While Moayery loves working on mergers and acquisitions, her other focus is legal compliance with corporate regulations like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practice Act.
“It’s remarkable how many areas of law one has to learn when supporting a multi-disciplinary retailer,” she says.
In fact, Moayery is versed in dozens of areas, including regulations applicable to electronics, weights and measures as well as plastics. Even a simple bookmark can expose a large retailer to safety claims, she says, which is why she advises the product and vendor compliance departments and requires that B&N’s suppliers stand behind their products.
Over the years, she’s also gained expertise in recalls, import regulations, conflict minerals, employment regulations, electronic recycling, privacy and more. In fact, one of her proudest moments at B&N was shepherding its electronics arm through a fast-track voluntary recall, during which she worked closely with the Consumer Products Safety Commission.
The commission lauded Moayery and the team she led for a job well done. This experience also resulted in her first public speaking opportunity on an educational panel focused on product recalls.
“Compliance is a field that keeps you learning even after two decades of practice,” says Moayery, who is currently brushing up on new environmental, social and governance regulations.
Printing a new publications future
The changing landscape of legal and compliance is one of the reasons Moayery chose to take a position at B&N. It was the third job in her career but her first in-house role—and, unlike a firm, it has allowed her to expand her expertise.
After being mentored by the first general counsel, Jennifer Daniels, for two years and current general counsel, Brad Feuer, for the entirety of her B&N career, in 2015 she became the interim general counsel and corporate secretary for Barnes & Noble Education, a company that is now on the New York Stock Exchange and operates over 760 campus bookstores and school-branded e-commerce sites.
She continued in this role of senior-most attorney during BNED’s corporate infancy, operating separately from the B&N legal department.
“Our GC had taken me to board meetings and had shown me the ropes, so I felt primed to step into that role in 2015,” she recalled. “By then, I had learned very well that when you go in house, you have to be able to roll up your sleeves without focusing on one specialty.”
That’s part of the reason she loves working at B&N. Another is that, unsurprisingly, she’s an avid reader, who’s part of several book clubs. Living in Brooklyn Heights and as a single mom of two children—one in elementary and one in middle school—she loves climbing on the couch with them, which usually leads to “three noses buried in books.”
While her children love the popular series “Keeper of the Lost Cities” and “Wings of Fire,” Moayery recently finished Louise Erdrich’s Pulitzer Prize winning “The Night Watchman,” which explores an important period in Native American history. She’s even read one of her children’s favorites, “Darkstalker,” a multi-generational family saga about dragons that explores themes of ethnicity and discrimination.
“Books and B&N have been such a huge part of my life, and I know both bring joy to so many families, including my own,” Moayery says. “I can’t wait to see where B&N heads next.”
View this feature in the Vanguard Winter III 2023 Edition here.
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