Waterstones is now in talks to buy Blackwell's, the historic Oxford bookseller up for sale for the first time in its 143-year history.

Waterstones, which is owned by the US-based hedge fund Elliott Advisors, has secured a period of exclusivity within which to negotiate a deal, according to Sky News.

If successfully completed, the acquisition of family-owned Blackwell's would unite it under common ownership with a number of other prominent bookselling brands, including Barnes & Noble in the United States and Daunt Books which has a branch in Summertown.

Oxford Mail:

A deal would take Blackwell’s, which operates 18 shops and a website, out of family control for the first time in its 143-year history.

Read again: Blackwell's is up for sale

A plan to put Blackwell's into employee ownership fell through, and the chain said that goal "ultimately proved to be difficult, due in large part to the ongoing uncertainty on the high street caused by Covid-19".

Competition watchdogs would be expected to examine a takeover of Blackwell's by Waterstones, which has stores in Cornmarket in Oxford and in Witney.

Waterstones and Barnes & Noble are both run by James Daunt, who was recruited to run the British books chain in 2011 when it was acquired by Alexander Mamut, a Russian businessman.

It was sold to Elliott seven years later.

Oxford Mail:

Waterstones was founded in 1982 by Tim Waterstone. Over the decades that followed it has gone on to employ 3,000 booksellers across more than 280 bookshops.

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Its website says: "As the last surviving national bookshop chain, under the helmsmanship of managing director James Daunt, we are proud to have fought off the perceived threat of e-readers and online competition to begin a programme of active expansion.

"Recent years have seen fresh shops open around the country and sites either move or be upgraded.

"With recent openings including Reigate, Clifton and moves to far more attractive locations for our shops in Edinburgh and Manchester’s Trafford Centre, our plans continue to be ambitious."

Oxford Mail:

Blackwell's in Broad Street began trading in 1879.

Blackwell's was the first to publish JRR Tolkien - before he became famous for Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the bookseller published children's poem Goblin's Feet.

Blackwell's in Broad Street is one of the largest bookshops in the world - in its basement alone, The Norrington Room, it has 3.5km of bookshelves.

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David Prescott, the chief executive of Blackwell’s, said earlier of the potential sale: "The business has been quietly and successfully transitioning itself in recent years to establish a substantial global online presence alongside a core portfolio of iconic shops.

Oxford Mail:

"We hope that a new owner and investment will help us to secure a long-term future for Blackwell’s and its booksellers for many years to come.”