The president and CEO of the Philly Pops has filed a defamation suit against the conductor and pianist Peter Nero, the Pops' former artistic director.

Frank Giordano, who took control of the Pops and negotiated Nero's exit from the orchestra he had helped to found, filed a complaint late Wednesday in federal court accusing Nero of making "knowingly false and defamatory statements" in a June 13 article in the Allentown Morning Call.

In the interview, in advance of his concert at the State Theatre in Easton, Pa., Nero said of his departure that "crooks dressed in $3,000 suits came in who didn't know a thing about the music business."

The lawsuit - filed by Giordano personally rather than by Pops parent Encore Series Inc. - acknowledges that Nero did not mention Giordano by name but says the object of the reference was obvious.

"Although Nero cleverly avoided mentioning Giordano by name, everyone having knowledge of the widely publicized events leading to the separation between Nero and the 'Philly Pops' would know that Nero was attacking the honesty, integrity and ability of Giordano," the complaint states.

Giordano is president of Atlantic Trailer Leasing Corp. and a fund-raiser for various charities, and calling him " 'a crook' damages his reputation and inhibits his ability to do the crucial work he is doing," the suit states. The civil action, which requests a jury trial, demands compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, plus attorney fees, as well as punitive damages in excess of $1 million.

Giordano and his attorney, David H. Marion, declined to elaborate on the suit. About the interview in question, Nero, through attorney Steve Harvey, said: "I have now been sued over certain statements made in that conversation which I never intended to be reported in the first place. I recognize that I perhaps should have been more careful. I apologize for that conversation and some of the statements I made. I did not mean to cause harm nor offend."

Nero's departure was negotiated during the Philly Pops' Chapter 11 proceedings and at a time when Giordano was taking over as the paid chief executive of the organization. The deal granted Nero, among other things, an annual $50,000 payment for life in exchange for ESI's use of the name Philly Pops, and included a non-disparagement clause. Nero, 80, who had been leader since the group's 1979 founding, was succeeded in 2013 by veteran pops conductor Michael Krajewski.

Nero had been slated to lead the Pops on July 3 on Independence Mall as part of the Welcome America! celebration, which the suit referred to as his final contracted appearance with the group. The Pops announced Thursday that Nero would be replaced by Larry Blank.