Barnes & Noble is sued by ex-CEO over termination

NEW YORK, Aug 28 (Reuters) - The former Barnes & Noble Inc chief executive who was fired last month for alleged policy violations sued the bookseller for breach of contract and defamation in connection with his sudden termination after just 14 months on the job.

In a complaint filed on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Demos Parneros accused Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio of engineering his "firing without cause" and announcing it in a July 3 press release that "falsely and irrevocably damaged" his reputation.

Barnes & Noble did not respond to requests for comment.

Debra Raskin, a lawyer for Parneros, declined to elaborate on the complaint.

The complaint said Riggio had 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 has not 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' telephone calls or texts, but continued to meet with other executives and regularly gave them direction.

"There was no suggestion that the failure of the deal was in any respect Parneros's fault," the complaint said.

The largest U.S. bookstore chain has been struggling with years of falling sales as Inc and other rivals take away business.

Barnes & Noble's press release said Parneros' termination was not the result of disagreement over its financial practices, and that Parneros would not receive severance.

This, Parneros said, prompted speculation about the actual reasons for his dismissal, given how two other recently departed executives had received "millions" in severance.

Parneros said he joined Barnes & Noble as chief operating officer in November 2016, after 28 years at Staples, and became chief executive six months later. He is seeking severance, plus compensatory and punitive damages.

The case is Parneros v Barnes & Noble Inc, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-07834.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Marguerita Choy)