Brad Feuer, Barnes & Noble general counsel (courtesy photo)
Barnes & Noble Inc. is a Fortune 500 bookseller based in New York with more than 630 stores across the U.S. Between its sales online and in its physical stores, B&N sells approximately 190 million physical books per year, according to its website.
E-commerce has reshaped the industry since general counsel Brad Feuer arrived in 1999, a time he describes as “the last period of our growth with expanding with lots of stores.”
But the company has grown in other ways, through digital sales and its e-reader device, Nook.
Feuer leads a team of seven lawyers, along with supporting staff. They each have their own expertise, although he’s constantly asking them to go outside of their comfort zone. “It’s really important to understand the industry you work in,” Feuer said.
When Feuer arrived at the company, he quickly found that “the heart and guts of Barnes & Noble is our merchants that really get out there and sell our books.” He invited himself to their weekly meetings, which he attended nearly every week for more than seven years.
Although the department is lean, B&N keeps many legal matters in-house. “We’re pretty self-reliant. We work hard and we have good expertise,” Feuer said.
When B&N does decide to turn to outside counsel, the company often calls on attorneys from Cravath, Swaine & Moore; Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan; or Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer.
The most the company has relied on outside counsel was with litigation related to its e-readers that involved nonpracticing entities, also known as “patent trolls.”
Feuer has overseen everything from antitrust issues to litigation to IP. One of the achievements he’s most proud of is fighting off the nonpracticing entities that he said “came out of the woodwork” to extort B&N over its Nook devices when they were introduced.
Here, he credits B&N’s aggressiveness. “One of the things that other companies who maybe had a lot more resources would do was pay a lot of money just to get rid of the troll, and that would drive the price up for everybody,” Feuer said. “We drove a much harder bargain.”
ROUTE TO THE TOP
Feuer joined Barnes & Noble in 1999 and for many years was the only in-house lawyer.
In 2004, B&N’s brick-and- mortar stores merged with its online business. Before that time, BarnesandNoble.com had operated as a separate entity, with two lawyers of its own. Those two departments eventually merged in 2007.Feuer became Barnes & Noble general counsel in December 2013. Prior to B&N, Feuer was as an associate with Weil, Gotshal & Manges, as well as Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison.
Feuer enjoys cycling, reading and traveling. He’s traveled to almost 50 countries. His favorite trip “by far and away” was to India between leaving law firm life and going in-house.
Feuer loves literature, like many at Barnes & Noble. “People here do really care about reading,” he said. He recently read W.G. Sebald’s novel “The Rings of Saturn” and highly recommends it.