March 24, 2019
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Papa John’s Schnatter didn’t want public fight over board seat

Timothy D. Easley | AP
Timothy D. Easley | AP
Papa John's founder and CEO John Schnatter attends a meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, Oct. 18, 2017. Schnatter filed a lawsuit in Delaware's Court of Chancery asking the court to help stop what he sees as irreparable harm being done to the company. Schnatter resigned in July as Papa John’s chairman after a report that he used a racial slur during a media training session. But he remains the Louisville, Kentucky-based company’s biggest shareholder.

Papa John’s International Inc. founder John Schnatter said he didn’t fight fellow directors’ request that he step down as chairman to protect the faltering pizza-delivery chain.

Schnatter, testifying in a court fight over files related to his ouster, said he was trying to avoid more bad publicity when his colleagues requested he relinquish the chairmanship in July.

“They were going to vote me out, and I didn’t want a public fight over the chairmanship because of the crisis we were going through,” Schnatter told Delaware Chancery Court Judge Andre Bouchard Monday. The company’s founder said he sued to force current executives to hand over records related to their moves against him.

The lawsuit is part of Schnatter’s bid to return to power at the embattled pizza chain, which is struggling with declining sales and controversies related to the founder’s alleged miscues.

Schnatter used a racial slur on a media-agency call but says it was taken out of context. The company has stopped using Schnatter in its advertising.

Schnatter acknowledged in court Monday he used the slur while discussing the addition of singer Kanye West in Papa John’s advertising. “I was pushed to use that exact word and I also said I was not a racist,” Schnatter told the judge.

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