The former chief executive of Barnes & Noble Inc. is suing the bookseller, accusing the company’s executive chairman of fabricating reasons to fire him a month after a deal to sell the company fell apart, according to Reuters. Barnes & Noble announced on July 3 that Demos Parneros, the company's former CEO, was terminated following multiple violations of the company’s policies. In a complaint filed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Parneros accused Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio of engineering his "firing without cause" and announcing it in a press release that "falsely and irrevocably damaged" his reputation. The complaint said Riggio told Parneros a day before the announcement that he would be "fired for cause for violating the sexual harassment policy," citing his alleged "interactions with an executive assistant and purported mistreatment of Allen Lindstrom," the company's chief financial officer. Parneros said he hasn't violated company policies, and "always conducted himself in a professional manner." According to the complaint, Riggio, a major Barnes & Noble shareholder, became hostile toward Parneros after an agreement for a book retailer to take over the company fell through in June. The complaint said Riggio stopped returning Parneros’ calls and texts, but continued to meet with other executives and regularly gave them direction. Parneros is seeking severance, plus compensatory and punitive damages.
Barnes & Noble's board called the lawsuit "nothing but an attempt to extort money from the company by a CEO who was terminated for sexual harassment, bullying behavior and other violations of company policies after being in the role for approximately one year." The statement continued: "[The allegations] are an example of someone who, instead of accepting responsibility for blatantly inappropriate behavior, is lashing out against a former employer. The board, advised by legal counsel, unanimously terminated Mr. Parneros’ employment following a thorough investigation that revealed multiple examples of significant misconduct."
Total Retail's Take: The plot thickens. As we stated in our article in July, Barnes & Noble wasn't clear about what policies Parneros violated when he was fired. However, it did note that Parneros’ termination "is not due to any disagreement with the company regarding its financial reporting, policies or practices or any potential fraud relating thereto." What we do know is that Parneros joined Barnes & Noble in November 2016 as chief operating officer, and was named CEO in 2017. We also know that during Parneros’ tenure as CEO, Barnes & Noble's stock lost almost one-third of its value, dropping to its lowest point in about a quarter century in March.