Barnes & Noble Details Alleged Harassment by Ousted CEO

(Bloomberg) -- Barnes & Noble Inc. ratcheted up its battle with a former chief executive officer by detailing in a court filing the reasons for his dismissal, including reports of sexual harassment and an allegation that he sabotaged an acquisition of the company.

The book store, which ousted Demos Parneros in July, initially declined to say why he’d been terminated without severance. But after Parneros sued the chain in August, alleging that Barnes & Noble founder Len Riggio made up reasons to dismiss him after a deal to sell the chain to another book retailer fell through, Barnes & Noble elaborated that his exit was related to sexual harassment and violating other company policies. A filing Tuesday goes into deeper detail.

According to the filing, Parneros derailed an acquisition of the company that was in the final stages. At a June meeting, he portrayed the company as having “no realistic prospects for success” and as an “ugly mess,” the book store alleges.

The company says a female subordinate reported two incidents in which she was subject to unwanted touching and comments. Parneros allegedly told the woman that she seemed like someone who “would put out” if he “wined and dined her.” Since his termination, the company said it has received additional complaints about other inappropriate behavior by Parneros toward women, but those allegations aren’t described in the document.

Parneros denied the allegations in an emailed statement. He said he did not undermine the acquisition, and was “fully supportive of the sale process from the start.” He also said the accusation of sexual harassment was unfounded.

“These false allegations are nothing more than an effort to tarnish my reputation and punish me for seeking justice,” Parneros said.

This court battle is being waged as the company is considering a sale and has yet to hire a replacement for Parneros. In the meantime, Riggio, also the chairman and largest shareholder, has been the acting CEO.

The case is Parneros v Barnes & Noble, 18-cv-7834, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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