1BARNES & NOBLE WINS BATTLE OVER BOARD .
2The bookseller Barnes & Noble , after fending off a challenge to its chairman , can now focus on a turnaround and a sale .
3The company still has a large number of shareholders who question its strategy , but it won some breathing space Tuesday after shareholders backed its three candidates for the board , including its chairman , Leonard S. Riggio , over a slate led by the investor Ronald W. Burkle .
4A preliminary tally showed that about 44 percent of the shares voted for the Barnes & Noble slate , while 38 percent voted for the candidates named by Burkle 's investment firm , the Yucaipa Cos. .
5Shareholders also rejected a proposal by Yucaipa to remove a poison-pill plan aimed at limiting Burkle 's holdings to under 20 percent .
6The results came after months of bitter public fighting between the two sides , punctuated by sharply worded accusations of greed and incompetence .
7Riggio and the company criticized Burkle as an opportunist who sought a stealth takeover of the company .
8Burkle argued that the Riggio family had failed to prepare Barnes & Noble for digital books and had used the company to profit at shareholders ' expense .
9`` I feel great , and I feel relieved , '' Riggio said after the meeting .
10`` It 's been a long four to five months . ''
11Burkle , who was not at the shareholder meeting , said in a telephone interview that he would now press Barnes & Noble management to support the highest bid that emerges from the sales process .
12He indicated that he was leaning against making a bid of his own .
13Since Barnes & Noble put itself up for sale in August , about 20 companies have expressed interest in making preliminary bids , which are due in October , according to people briefed on the process .
14Riggio said that had he lost the proxy contest , potential bidders could have walked away from the process .
15It was not clear whether Riggio might bid for the company , though the people briefed on the process said that he might eventually partner with a promising suitor .