Papa John’s founder blames wild ‘extortion’ plot for n-word scandal that led to his ouster

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter has made an explosive allegation about the controversy over his use of a racial slur during a conference call.

The pizza mogul, who was forced to step down as CEO of the company he founded after remarks about NFL protests, found himself in hot water again over an internal conference call in May.

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Schnatter not only claimed a marketing agency had “pushed” him to make the n-word comments, he accused the company, Laundry Service, of trying to extort $6 million from the chain in order to keep quiet about the slur, Fox Business reported.

“They wanted $6 million to make it go away,” Schnatter said during an interview with WLKY, a Kentucky CBS affiliate. “They made it pretty clear. The words were, ‘If I don’t get my [expletive] money, I’m going to bury the founder. … I’m not for sale. They tried to extort us and we held firm and they took what I said and they ran to Forbes, and Forbes printed it.”

The marketing company, which was hired for public relations training, made the alleged extortion attempt about two weeks after the May conference call. When the attempt failed, the company reportedly leaked the details of the conference call to Forbes, Schnatter told WLKY.

Papa John’s issued a statement following Schnatter’s interview, saying he “is no longer a spokesperson for the company or the brand. The company has 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.”

He was also evicted from his office at the company’s Louisville headquarters and has 90 days to vacate.

Los Angeles trial attorney Patricia Glaser, who was hired by Schnatter to clear “his good name,” told the Wall Street Journal, “He’s not going quietly.”

Schnatter reportedly is regretting his resignation and fired off a letter to Papa John’s board of directors dated Saturday.

“I will not allow either my good name or the good name of the company I founded and love to be unfairly tainted,” he wrote, noting that the board asked for his resignation “without apparently doing any investigation. I agreed, though today I believe it was a mistake to do so.”


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