Leonard Riggio is the Founder and Chairman of Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller. The company employs approximately 26,000 booksellers at 633 retail stores nationwide. Mr. Riggio also founded Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, a Barnes & Noble Education company (NYSE: BNED) and a leading operator of college bookstores in the U.S., and GameStop (NYSE: GME), the world’s largest videogame retailer.
Beginning with a single college bookstore in 1965, Mr. Riggio built one of the largest enterprises in the history of American retail. He is widely known as a visionary in the bookselling industry, and as a brilliant marketer and entrepreneur.
Mr. Riggio is also devoted to many philanthropic initiatives, having served on nearly two dozen not-for-profit boards. He served as chairman of the Dia Art Foundation for eight years, where he led and funded the effort to build Dia:Beacon, one of the world’s most highly respected and revered contemporary art museums. Since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Mr. Riggio has built homes for families who lost their homes in New Orleans. He and his wife gifted more than 100 homes to displaced families through a not-for-profit he created called Project Home Again.
Mr. Riggio also devotes much of his time to public education. He led the nation’s first-ever private endowment for a public high school, Brooklyn Technical High School, from which he graduated in 1958.
Mr. Riggio has received honorary doctorate degrees from Baruch College of the City University of New York, Bentley College, Adelphi University, Tusculum College, and Long Island University. He has been inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Entrepreneurs at Babson College and the Texas A&M Retail Hall of Fame. Recently he has joined the board of The Fund for Public Schools of New York, which serves to create private/public partnerships designed to enhance the performance of the City’s school system.
Long passionate about helping address what he calls the “Unfinished business of the Civil Rights Movement,” he served on the Board of the Children’s Defense Fund, where he organized and funded the 1996 “Stand for Children” March in Washington. Subsequently, together with his wife Louise, he has supported the Freedom School at Haley Farm in Tennessee, whose mission is to cultivate young community leaders. Two buildings now stand as testimony to their generosity and vision: The Langston Hughes Library (Mr. Riggio’s favorite poet) and The Riggio-Lynch Chapel, jointly named for Mr. Riggio and political activist Bill Lynch. Both were designed by Maya Lin.
His commitment to promoting equality and diversity has earned him numerous awards, including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor and the Frederick Douglass Medallion. In 2002, he received the Americanism Award from the Anti-Defamation League, its highest honor. The award cited his work “to celebrate diversity and make the dream of freedom and equality a reality for so many Americans.”
Mr. Riggio is married and has three children and four grandchildren.