Papa John’s Founder: Stepping Down As Chairman A Mistake

NEW YORK — Papa John’s founder John Schnatter says the pizza chain doesn’t know how to handle a “crisis based on misinformation” and that he made a “mistake” in agreeing to step down as chairman.

Schnatter says the board requested that he step down as chairman without “any investigation” and he should not have complied, according to a letter his representative says was sent to the board Saturday. The contents of the letter were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Papa John’s, which has started scrubbing Schnatter’s image from its marketing materials and says it is evaluating all ties with Schnatter, did not respond to a request for comment. The company said over the weekend it “specifically requested that Mr. Schnatter cease all media appearances, and not make any further statements to the media regarding the company, its business or employees.”

Schnatter, who remains on Papa John’s board, is the company’s largest shareholder.

“I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted,” Schnatter says in the letter.

A representative for Schnatter declined to comment on whether he was considering legal action.

In the report last week, Forbes said Schnatter used the N-word during a media training session in May, and that the incident led the marketing agency to sever its ties with the company. Schnatter says he used the word while describing how Colonel Sanders spoke, but that he would never use it as an epithet.

He also said in the letter to the board that the agency asked for a higher payment than had been agreed to. The marketing firm, Laundry Service, did not respond to requests for comment.

Schnatter had already resigned as CEO last year after blaming disappointing sales on the NFL leadership’s on the controversy surrounding football players kneeling during the national anthem.

In the letter Saturday, Schnatter said that incident was also mishandled by the company’s leadership “from a public relations standpoint” and that what he said was not racist.

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