It’s not difficult to see the negotiating motivation for HMV offloading Waterstones (see article here). They are in “survival” mode as deal makers, suffering repeated profit warnings and severe contractions in the markets for CD’s and DVD’s. Selling Waterstones buys them some time to restructure their debt and search for alternative options to arrest the decline in sales or build new product ranges (eg technology products).

It’s less obvious what the motivation might be for Alexander Mamut. Physical book sales are at the beginning of the same sort of cycle as music has been through, where mass digitisation creates pirated sales, or drives sales online to generally cheaper outlets like Amazon. In this context a labour intensive, physical offering via the High Street, with all the attendant costs of retail space and distribution, looks like a bit of struggle going forward – anyone remember when Zavi bought the Virgin music retail shops a few years ago in similar circumstances? Zavi went bust not long afterwards.

Maybe Alexander Mamut is one of those negotiators who relishes achievement, and has a high need to do innovative and groundbreaking deals – in which case acquiring a physical books chain to turn round in the teeth of irreversible market decline should suit him nicely….