Papa John's founder is suing the chain after stepping down as chairman following his use of the N-word in a conference call

Jason Merrit/GettyJohn Schnatter is suing the pizza chain he founded.
  • Papa John’s controversial founder, John Schnatter, is suing the pizza chain.
  • Schnatter stepped down as chairman on July 11 after he admitted to using the N-word in a company conference call in May, which was first reported by Forbes. He was later booted out of the company’s offices and removed from its marketing campaign and logo.
  • Schnatter is now demanding to see internal documents related to his ouster because of the “unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur,” a spokesperson for his attorney, Patricia Glaser, wrote in an email to Business Insider.

Papa John’s controversial founder, John Schnatter, is suing the pizza chain over his departure earlier this month.

John Schnatter stepped down as chairman on July 11 after he admitted to using the N-word in a company conference call in May, which was first reported by Forbes. He was later booted out of the company’s offices and removed from its marketing campaign and logo.

Now, Schnatter is demanding to see internal documents related to the fallout because of the “unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur,” a spokesperson for his attorney, Patricia Glaser, wrote in an email to Business Insider.

“The Company’s refusal to provide the requested documents to Mr. Schnatter demonstrates that the Company, Board and the Special Committee, instead of standing behind its founder and Chairman, did just the opposite by failing to engage with the news media to explain what actually occurred,” the spokesperson continued.

In a statement emailed to Business Insider, a spokesperson for Papa John’s said that the company was “saddened and disappointed that John Schnatter has filed a needless and wasteful lawsuit in an attempt to distract from his own words and actions.”

“We are providing Mr. Schnatter all of the materials he is entitled to as a director. We will not let his numerous misstatements in the complaint and elsewhere distract us from the important work we are doing to move the business forward,” the spokesperson continued.

The pizza chain launched a special committee to deal with the incidents last week. The court filing states that Schnatter agreed to step down as chairman for “the good of the company” although he “vehemently denies the veracity of the news reports” and that he suggested the board form this special committee to investigate the claims made in the Forbes article.

This committee agreed to terminate Schnatter’s sublease in the Papa John’s office, which he used while serving as the company’s chairman.

Schnatter is accusing the board of planning to terminate his role in the company well before the committee was formed.

Glaser, of Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP, represented Harvey Weinstein in 2017 after he was fired from the company he set up following reports of sexual harassment allegations against him. Weinstein, who had signed a three-year contract, claimed his removal constituted a breach of contract.

Read Glaser’s full statement below:

“Mr. Schnatter’s attorneys are seeking to inspect Company documents because of the unexplained and heavy-handed way in which the Company has treated him since the publication of a story that falsely accused him of using a racial slur. The Company’s refusal to provide the requested documents to Mr. Schnatter demonstrates that the Company, Board and the Special Committee, instead of standing behind its founder and Chairman, did just the opposite by failing to engage with the news media to explain what actually occurred.

Now they are doing the same thing again – rather than address the real issues like the health of the business, the Company is hiding documents that, we believe, will disclose the actual facts as to what is occurring here, including using Mr. Schnatter as a scapegoat to cover up their own shortcomings and failures.

When Mr. Schnatter asked the Company to assist in correcting the misreported stories by communicating the true facts, the Company’s public relations department and other top executives told Mr. Schnatter to ignore the issue because it would eventually go away. This type of flawed public relations strategy is unfortunately par for the course for the Company, which has a history of sticking its head in the sand when dealing with comments that have been misconstrued and falsely reported. In addition to failing to defend him by explaining what he did and did not say, the Company and the Board took a series of panic-stricken steps to immediately distance themselves from Mr. Schnatter without conducting any investigation into what really occurred as their legal obligations require.”

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