Barnes & Noble on Tuesday announced the termination of CEO Demos Parneros "for violations of the company's policies." In the interim, a leadership group that includes CFO Allen Lindstrom, Chief Merchandising Officer Tim Mantel and Vice President of Stores Carl Hauch, (with Board Executive Chairman Leonard Riggio also involved) will take over his duties.
No specifics were given, but the company said the board made the move with the advice of law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Parneros will receive no severance and he is no longer a member of the board, according to a company press release.
The move means the struggling bookseller has been led by five chief executives in as many years. Parneros was promoted to the top spot last April after the abrupt departure of Ronald Boire after less than a year, for not being a "good fit." In that interim Riggio served in the role.
Barnes & Noble is scrambling in a years-long turnaround already made more difficult by high CEO turnover.
The bookseller had been gaining some traction under Parneros' leadership, and on Tuesday affirmed its previously announced earnings (before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization) guidance of $175 million to $200 million for fiscal 2019.
Parneros' departure won't make much of a difference in that advancement, at least in the intermediate term, according to GlobalData Retail Managing Director Neil Saunders. But "it does leave the bookseller leaderless at a time when it desperately needs a sense of direction," Saunders said in comments emailed to Retail Dive, adding that the team approach in the interim is less than ideal.
"Although we recognize that there is talent within the current leadership group, we are not keen on the CEO's responsibilities being shared among its members," he said. "Management by committee is rarely successful and usually leads to inertia. That is the last thing Barnes & Noble needs and, as such, we believe that it is imperative the company appoint a new CEO as quickly as possible."
Still, the move to oust Parneros, mysterious as it is, is wise, Saunders also said. "Although the reasons for Parneros' departure are unclear, we applaud Barnes & Noble for taking swift action to mitigate anything that could damage its image as an inclusive business that serves education, families and communities," he said.
Barnes & Noble is hardly alone in showing top executives the door upon discovery of unacceptable behavior. Among other such news, Nike in recent months let go a stream of executives, Lululemon ousted high-performing CEO Laurent Potdevin and Guess Co-Founder Paul Marciano last month resigned as executive chairman following an investigation of his conduct, which involved allegations of sexual harassment and assault that he has denied.