Papa John’s founder sues pizza chain

Papa John's boxImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Schnatter will no longer appear on Papa John’s pizza boxes and other marketing material

The founder and former chairman of Papa John’s has taken the company to court seeking access to documents related to his exit from the pizza chain.

John Schnatter resigned earlier this month after apologising for using the N-word in a conference call.

Lawyers for Mr Schnatter said they wanted to see the documents because of the «unexplained and heavy-handed way» that Papa John’s had treated him.

Papa John’s said it was «saddened and disappointed» by the lawsuit.

Mr Schnatter filed the complaint on Thursday in Delaware Chancery Court.

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His attorneys said they were «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».

«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,» they added.

In a statement Papa John’s said the company was «saddened and disappointed» that Mr Schnatter had 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 mis-statements in the complaint and elsewhere distract us from the important work we are doing to move the business forward for our 120,000 corporate and franchise team members, and our franchisees, customers and stakeholders,» the company said.

After Mr Schnatter’s resignation the company said it would remove his image from its branding.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Schnatter’s resignation as chairman was announced earlier this month

Papa John’s is the world’s third-largest pizza chain, with more than 350 outlets in the UK and 4,900 restaurants worldwide.

The incident occurred during a media training conference call in May between top staff at Papa John’s and a marketing agency called Laundry Service.

According to Forbes, the call involved a role-playing exercise that was supposed to give Mr Schnatter experience in dealing with difficult issues.

When discussing how he would distance himself from racist groups, Mr Schnatter said that Colonel Sanders, the founder of KFC, had never faced criticism for using the N-word, Forbes reported.

It was not the first controversy involving Mr Schnatter. He resigned as chief executive last year after criticising the NFL over players’ national anthem protests.

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