By Leslie Patton
Papa John’s founder, blocked from the pizza chain’s headquarters amid a deepening dispute with the rest of the board, is betting that franchisees and workers will have his back.
John Schnatter, who resigned as chairman last month, took out a full-page ad in the company’s hometown paper, the Courier Journal in Kentucky, to direct employees to his newly launched website, SavePapaJohns.com.
Papa John’s has about 120,000 workers worldwide, including those at its franchises.
The website is part of Mr Schnatter’s bid for new leadership at the chain, which is struggling with declining sales and controversies related to his comments.
The 56-year-old came under pressure after a July media report that he used a racial slur and descriptions of violence against minorities on a call with a media agency. He admitted to using the slur but said he was taken out of context.
Papa John’s said in a statement yesterday that it is not dependent on one person among its corporate and franchise team members. Investors support the company’s actions to separate itself from Mr Schnatter, it said. “We appreciate this support and are confident we are taking the right steps to move the company forward.”
“No matter what John does, he will not be able to distract from the inappropriate comments he made.”
Months earlier, Mr Schnatter had exited as chief executive over critical comments about the NFL’s national-anthem controversy. He has since said he regrets resigning.
“I can only imagine how difficult this entire situation is on you, and I’m very sorry you all have to go through this.”
Earlier this month, after the chain reported weaker-than-expected quarterly earnings, Mr Schnatter published a blistering critique, including CEO Steve Ritchie.
The chain punched back, noting Mr Schnatter’s controversy is weighing down performance, with North American sales falling 10.5% in July. The chain has had to give financial assistance to franchisees hurt by Mr Schnatter’s statements “to mitigate closings”.