Here’s Why Barnes & Noble’s Former CEO Is Suing the Company

August 29, 2018, 11:17 AM UTC

It might be too late to ask for a LinkedIn recommendation: Former Barnes & Noble (BKS) CEO Demos Parneros has filed suit against the bookseller, claiming it fired him without cause and irrevocably damaged his reputation.

Parneros claimed company founder Leonard Riggio turned against him and fabricated reasons to remove him after a deal to sell Barnes & Noble fell through in June. He is seeking $4 million cash severance plus equity and damages.

Barnes & Noble’s board replied in a statement saying the lawsuit was “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.”

Initially, the reasons given for his sudden termination were unspecified violations of the company’s policies. Parneros said the bookseller enabled rumors he was let go because of “serious sexual misconduct.” His complaint spills a lot of tea: He seems to be trying to drag Riggio down with him, with long lists of accusations and insults detailed in the filing. In the suit, Parneros said Riggio repeatedly insulted current and past executives, calling them a “slime bag,” “SOB” and a “fat pig.”

In defending his own actions, Parneros also revealed details about the complaints from an executive assistant against himself. He claimed the complaint stemmed from “simply an innocuous, less than five-minute conversation about vacationing in Quebec.”

Parneros was the CEO of Barnes & Noble for just 14 months after 28 years at Staples (SPLS). His plan for Barnes & Noble was to shrink stores and put the focus back on books, but 2017’s holiday sales declined 6.4% from the prior year, triggering layoffs in February. Parneros was the company’s fourth non-interim CEO in five years, and Riggio seems unwilling to retire.

Barnes & Noble continues to have a tough time competing against Amazon (AMZN), which is opening bricks-and-mortar stores as Walmart (WMT) is getting into ebooks.