C-SUITE

Fireworks at Barnes & Noble as bookseller fires back at suit filed by ex-CEO

BY Marianne Wilson

The recently-fired chief executive of Barnes & Noble is not going “gently into that good night.” And neither is the bookseller.

Demos Parneros, who was terminated for “violations of the company’s policies,” has filed a lawsuit accusing Leonard Riggio, founder and chairman of Barnes & Noble, for engineering his “firing without cause” and for “falsely and irrevocably’ damaging his reputation. The bookseller announced Parneros’ termination in a July 3 press release statement in which it said the firing was not due to any disagreement regarding its financial reporting, policies or practices or any potential fraud, and that he would not receive severance pay.

In his complaint, Parneros said Riggio had told him 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 company CFO Allen Lindstrom, reported Reuters.

Parneros said he has not violated company policies, and “always conducted himself in a professional manner.”

Barnes & Noble fired back at Parneros’ claims with a statement that called his 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.” It called the allegations in the complaint about Riggio as being filled with “lies and mischaracterizations.”

“For more than 50 years, since founding Barnes & Noble, Mr. Riggio is widely known amongst his business associates, colleagues and employees for his impeccable reputation and as an individual and leader that upholds the highest standards of integrity and decency,” the statement read. “Mr. Parneros’ actions were unacceptable and not representative of the high standards by which Barnes & Noble operates.”

Parneros was tapped as CEO of the struggling bookstore chain in April 2017, the chain’s fourth CEO in four years. Prior to joining Barnes & Noble as COO in 2016, he was president of North American stores & online for Staples.

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